BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The first 20 hectares of the Brunei’s largest site for paddy cultivation in Kandol, Belait will begin operations in October of this year, the minister of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) said.

Responding to a question by YB Naim Hj Kamis at the Legislative Council meeting on Thursday, YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Ali Apong said that the 500 hectare site in Kandol is too large to be undertaken by one operator.

Since the site’s launching, MPRT has been collaborating with the Ministry of Finance and Economy and Ministry of Development to establish working committees for investment and technical matters.

“We have been in several talks with the technical working committee and a tender was offered last week for contractors who can open up the first 20 hectares of the site.

“They will also conduct studies on how to address issues such as flooding and irrigation.”

Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism, YB Dato Awg Hj Ali, speaking during a session on March 14, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

The minister added that the working committee for investment will find investors who will establish joint ventures with government linked companies under Darussalam Assets (DA), to ensure that the future partners are experienced and adept in paddy cultivation.

Part of the cost of implementing the Kandol site project will be partly funded by investors operating on the site amounting about $20 million. The rest, about $55 million, will be funded by the government through the National Development Plan (RKN).

Towards achieving rice self-sufficiency

When asked whether the ministry was confident in reaching the projected 11 per cent rice self-sufficiency by next year, YB Dato Hj Ali said they are confident in reaching the target especially with the cultivation of the Sembada188 rice variety which can produce six metric tonnes of paddy per hectare.

YB Naim Hj Kamis questioned whether the ministry was able to achieve the target in such a short time frame (20 months) considering that rice production in 2017 could only achieve 4.74 per cent in terms of rice self-sufficiency.

The minister said that to reach the self-sufficiency target ultimately depends on the availability of the seeds like the Sembada188 that is already available to farmers, adding that the Titih variety — which can produce eight metric tonnes of paddy per hectare — will be available for cultivation by next year.

“We are not just relying on Titih, we are also working with research institutes from China and the Philippines in order to find other high yielding paddy varieties”.

Most importantly, added the minister, by working with these research institutes, the ministry also has access to “breeding experts” that can increase the output of seed production so that they will be available for the nation’s farmers.