4,906 hectares of land to be used to produce rice
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
THE Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR) has identified an additional 4,906 hectares of agricultural land in Belait and Brunei-Muara District to meet the country's target of 20 per cent self-sufficiency rate in rice production by 2010, the minister said.
Newly-designated land lots, including Labi Baru in Belait District and Limau Manis in Brunei-Muara, will be added to the existing 1,354 hectares in Brunei's 27 agricultural development areas (KKP), YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar said.
Following a review of the national rice production programme, the ministry has set a target of increasing self-sufficiency in rice production from the current 3.2 per cent (982.9 metric tonnes a year) to 20 per cent (approximately 6,000 metric tonnes a year) by 2010, and to 60 per cent ( about 18,000 metric tonnes) by end of 2015.
Improvements to infrastructure in existing fields; a change in the use of the traditional variety of seeds to modern, high-yielding types that can be harvested biannually; and the provision of agriculture-related courses to Agriculture Department staff and farmers are high up on the priority list to make the programme a success, said the minister at the second day of the fifth session of the State Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting, yesterday
The ministry will not introduce new areas to reach its target of 60 per cent self-sufficiency rate by 2015, but instead infrastructural improvements will be made to existing fields, which by then will amount to 6,260 hectares in total, he said.
Two other aspects will also be prioritised to achieve the 2015 target: ensuring biannual harvests from all 27 KKPs and continuing advances in technology and human resource.
Consultants from the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation found widespread presence of acid sulphate in soils in various parts of the country, and have provided a guideline on managing acid sulphate levels, the minister said.
Tasked with collecting scientific data on the types of soil found in Brunei, fertility status and the suitability of plantations, the consultants have also determined the suitable types of soil for the different KKPs.
Brunei's agricultural land mainly suffers from stagnant water, erosion from steep hills, the presence of toxic aluminium and high levels of acidity, said the minister.
The floods and landslides that occurred late last January and early February further slowed down agricultural progress in the Sultanate after farm fields became inundated with water following days of persistent rain.
The minister said compensation and assistance will be provided to farmers affected by the landslides and floods, which according to the Agriculture Department caused 20 to 30 per cent in damages to rice fields in Tutong and Belait Districts.
"The government, through the Agriculture Department, have assessed damages to paddy fields and will provide compensation to those affected via a paddy quota assistance scheme," said the minister, adding that it will be rolled out after the harvesting season finishes in April this year.
"For vegetable and fruit farmers, assistance will be given in the form of free farming necessities, such as seeds, baby trees, fertilisers and pesticides. Assistance will be dished out according to the assessment of damages," he said.
The Brunei Times