Drastic drop in production of rice in Brunei

National 2 minutes, 11 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

NO BRUNEIAN food spread is complete without rice. In fact, one cannot imagine any food preparation which does not have rice as an ingredient.

But it will come as a shock to Bruneians that the rice production during the past 30 years has dropped by 74.5 per cent.

In 1977, Brunei yielded 4,259 tonnes of local rice, and the most recent statistics have shown that in 2007, local rice production stood at 1,084 tonnes.

The most significant rise in local rice production occurred in 1973/74 where rice production increased by 59.7 per cent from 6,116 tonnes in 1973 to 9,766 tonnes in 1974.

However, two years later, the most significant drop in rice production took place, where in 1976, local rice production was at 7,230 tonnes and it dropped 41.1 per cent to 4,259 tonnes.

Yesterday morning, His Majesty said in his titah that agriculture plays an important role in the diversification of the economy. His Majesty also added that the overall aim is to fulfil the residents' needs and that it can also be commercialised locally and globally.

In response to questions about how the local rice industry was faring, the Agricultural Department issued a press statement stating that "agribusiness activities which support the agricultural industry have been widely promoted and are emphatic on the commercial aspect of the industry".

The Agriculture Department declined to officially comment on the trends in local rice production.

According to the Fifth Development Plan (1986-1990), government incentives for local paddy farmers include drainage and irrigation systems for certain areas, ploughing services, fertilisers at reduced prices, free insecticides and fungicides, and expert advice and guidance.

The department also did not offer any explanation for the drop in rice production over the years, but the chairman of the National Paddy Cooperative Limited, DPSU Hj Osman Hj Omar, suggested in a previous article by The Brunei Times that there was a lack of interest in farming and agriculture among the younger generation.

One of the farmers currently under the government paddy scheme, Lt Col (Rtd) Hasnan Haji Abdullah, said: "Most of the farmers now are retired; there are not many farmers who are doing it to earn a living."

He suggested that one of the ways to get the youth interested in rice harvesting is to commercialise paddy farming, and increase the land and bring in more modern machinery.

He mentioned that the average paddy farmer in the scheme gets 2.5 tonnes of rice, while some hard-working farmers manage to get 3 tonnes.

"The government provides good service to us and they buy the paddy from us at $1.60 per kilo. They also help us to sell it," he added.

The Brunei Times