Manpower, production woes hamper local products’ chances

National 2 minutes, 42 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

LIMITED production facilities and manpower are among the factors that hinder local products from being exported, but businesses are trying to overcome these challenges.

This was said by most members of the Village Consultative Council (MPK) in an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday, during the three-day One Village One Product (OVOP) exhibition that was held at Times Square in Berakas. The event concluded yesterday.

Rokiah Hj Mat Zain, 57, deputy secretary of MPK Masjid Lama in Brunei-Muara district, said that their cracker products received overwhelming response from buyers in Hong Kong, Thailand, Italy, France and China who wanted to buy in bulk.

“We produce crackers of three varieties —‘ikan tamban’ (local sardine), ‘ikan tenggiri’ (mackerel) and prawn. We joined an expo at Empire Hotel & Country Club recently. They (foreign investors) saw our demo and were very keen to order in massive amounts. Unfortunately, we had to decline due to the limited amount that we can produce and the lack of manpower, as the ones running the business are mostly retired senior citizens,” she said.

Since the business is home-based, they can only manage to export their products to neighbouring areas.

Alhamdulillah, apart from supplying our products to all districts in the country, we are now supplying these crackers to Kota Kinabalu. This started after we participated in a fair in KK last month. We also have private restaurants from Miri who are purchasing these crackers,” she said.

Hj Ahmad Hj Ibrahim, 60, a member of the MPK Pekan Muara said that they are thankful for the assistance from the Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in terms of machinery to aid the processing of the crackers.

“We wish to further expand this business, so we look to the government to assist us in terms of allocating a small place for us for a factory for us to produce in large amounts. This would definitely help us to meet the demand from foreign buyers or investors. However, we are also taking the initiative to overcome this challenge,” he said.

This would eventually open up employment opportunities to young Bruneians. He said that so far they have about 15 to 16 youths working with the business and might be hiring more, but the decision is still in the discussion phase.

Meanwhile, Siti Raudah Hajimah Sofian, 16, a young entrepreneur who is helping her grandmother sell jamu (traditional health supplements) - a product under the MPK Lambak Kiri OVOP programme — said that they had been a plan to expand to East Malaysia.

“We have plans to promote and take our products to Melaka. However, the challenge for us is that we’re still waiting for our Halal certification which is still in process,” she said.

She said that the market for their product is still relatively large, especially amongst Malay women who have just given birth and are observing the “berpantang” (taboo) period. Their jamu products, which include “lulut” (scrubbing powder), jamus for women’s health, “minyak temulawak” (traditional oil) and others, are all home-made and free from preservatives, artificial colouring and perfumes.

The OVOP exhibition at Times Square in Berakas is aimed to raise awareness amongst Bruneians on the different products that each kampung is offering.

The Brunei Times