BRUNEI-MUARA – Brunei has introduced a new high-yielding paddy variety called Sembada188, the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood (DAA) announced on Monday, with the government banking on the hybrid strain to boost rice production in the country.
Sembada188 — which was developed as part of a collaborative research project between the DAA and Syarikat PT. Biogene Plantation of Indonesia — can produce an estimated six tonnes of paddy per season, compared to the local Laila variety which only produces three tonnes per harvest.
In Wasan today, His Majesty the Sultan planted the first seedlings of Sembada188 at the Agricultural Development Area before a large crowd onlookers. He has repeatedly stressed the urgent need for the government to develop the agriculture sector, and cut reliance on food imports.
Cultivation of the Laila variety has seen mixed success in the past, with local farmers facing numerous challenges in rice cultivation, such as high soil acidity, poor irrigation, unpredictable weather, lack of capital and competition from neighboring countries.
With the launch of the Sembada188 variety, the government has leased 35 hectares of land in Wasan to 19 farmers from the cooperative Koperasi Setia Kawan (KOSEKA) and members of the Pangkalan Batu Mukim Consultative Council.
Sembada188 seeds are imported from Indonesia, through Yaz and Wyn Enterprise, a local company that has been appointed by the government as the sole distributor.
In a statement to media, Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism, YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Ali Apong, said while the DAA won’t discourage farmers from planting Laila, they would likely get more revenue from planting higher yield varieties.
“By planting Sembada, farmers can double their income for every one hectare of land,” he said.
According to statistics provided by the department, rice production in the country has steadily increased over the past twenty years, except for dips during El Nino years which affected crop output.
Nevertheless, Dato Ali said he was confident Brunei would reach 3,000 metric tonnes of paddy output by the end of 2018, increasing to 4,000 metric tonnes by 2020.
“If all paddy farmers grow high-yielding hybrid rice varieties and utilise their land fully, then paddy production may even reach 6,000 metric tonnes by 2020,” he said.
If DAA can achieve this target, the rate of rice self-sufficiency would rise from 4.58 percent in 2016 to 11 percent by 2020. However, this figure is still below the original 20 percent target.
The minister said DAA will continue to research and develop other high yielding rice strains, such as Titih and BDR5, in a bid to boost national rice output.
Under the ministry’s annual budget, the DAA has been allocated $5.47 million for the national rice production programme, which will be supported by an additional $40 million through the National Development Plan.