Food security among many issues raised

National 4 minutes, 13 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

MEMBERS of the State Legislative Council yesterday discussed various issues related to the primary resources sector, particularly those concerned with agriculture and forestry, when they convened for the morning session of the ongoing state budget deliberations.

Several concerns by the public that was relayed by the non-governmental members of the council, as well as those selected to represent the four districts, included the need for greater promotion of local products and help for local farmers and fishermen.

Among the issues that were raised in yesterday's morning session of the meeting were:

Food security in Brunei

There are schemes in place to ensure that the security of the national food supply, said the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Pehin Orang Kaya Setia Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Ahmad Hj Jumat yesterday.

He was responding to a query raised by the Belait representative to the council, Hj Mohd Shafiee Ahmad, regarding the status of Brunei's food security.

"The issue of food security is very controversial," said the minister. "However, I can say that so far there has been no incidences of food shortage."

He also noted that the country is well prepared in case crisis threatens the supply of food to the country.

Pehin Dato Dr Hj Ahmad said: "I can assure that the policies, process and action plans are in place to establish our position now and in the future regarding food security."

Promoting agriculture as a commercial venture

Future generations should be encouraged to view the agriculture as a lucrative commercial venture, so as to heighten local participation in the sector and increase agriculture's contribution to the gross domestic product.

"People are the most important resource and engine of growth," he stressed.

Pehin Dato Dr Hj Ahmad noted that agri-business is a burgeoning field in the agriculture industry, alongside livestock and cultivation.

The ministry is actively pursuing and training youngsters to increase their interest and skills in this area.

Its entrepreneurship development centre in Sinaut, for instance, regularly hosts programmes for students during the school holidays so that they can learn about being entrepreneurial and business-savvy.

Such programmes are also hoped to spark their interest in making a living by participating in the agricultural sector.

The young should be encouraged to be less dependent on jobs in the government sector, but instead venture into the agriculture sector.

Heart of Borneo

Roadshows and meetings should be held to inform the public regarding the development of the Heart of Borneo initiative, Dato Paduka Hj Puasa Orang Kaya Seri Pahlawan Tudin said yesterday.

"This initiative has garnered widespread support from those countries involved," he said, but pointed out that in Brunei, interested members of the public are only able to keep tabs on the progress of the projects through reports in the media.

"Information about the Heart of Borneo (HoB) should be shared with the public through relevant meetings to discuss the aims and objectives of the initiative, its advantages and benefits, the implementation and running processes, monitoring and security issues and others, related issues such as the area allocated to the project," said Dato Hj Puasa.

"With these briefings, it is hoped that this initiative will receive the cooperation and support towards the successful establishment of the project."

In response, the minister said that while the HoB has been formally endorsed by all three Bornean governments, further action needs to be approved before the initiative can move forward.

A council to govern the goings-on of the HoB has been proposed, he added, but this is also pending approval.

While he could not divulge in detail what the HoB action plan will entail, Pehin Dato Dr Hj Ahmad said that the ministry can and will consider holding roadshows for the public.

Exploring the biomedical potential of Brunei's forests

The agreement between Brunei Darussalam and Japan's National Institute of Technology and Evaluation (Nite) to explore the micro and macro-organisms that exist in Brunei and establish a bio-research industry here is a welcome development, Dato Paduka Hj Idris Hj Abas pointed out yesterday.

"This is a positive venture, as Brunei is rich in its biodiversity, and the (agreement) can lead to added benefits for the country socially and economically," he said.

However, he questioned whether the country is legally prepared to protect its rights to its forest resources, should valuable discoveries be made and be in demand globally.

If such a legal framework should be made, it should also incorporate aspects of conservation and sustainability of Brunei's forest resources, he added.

According to Pehin Dato Dr Hj Ahmad, Brunei has its own bio-diversity centre, which occupies several hectares in Sungai Liang.

In terms of the legal aspects of the agreement, he continued, Brunei's Forestry Department is working with the State Attorney to work out the terms of a proposed memorandum of understanding between Nite and the biodiversity centre.

The MoU will hopefully be signed this year, said the minister, who did not specify a date.

The Brunei Times