Vegetable farmers sceptical about meeting target

National 2 minutes, 24 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

VEGETABLE farmers say the authorities must resolve issues impacting their farming operations if the new national production target is to be met.

During the 12th Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting, Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Yang Berhormat Dato Paduka Hj Ali Hj Apong revealed that the production target for vegetables is to be increased to between $150 million and $200 million worth by 2020.

The ambitious target is at least four and a half times that of the $33 million worth of vegetables produced in 2014.

A local farmer who declined to be named said he doubted the target would be achieved in the set time given.

“The vegetable farms here in Junjongan haven’t even had regular water supply for the past two years and I’ve had to pump water from the drains which is dirty and damaging to plants to irrigate my field while those drains are always blocked, which causes flooding during the monsoon season.

“If (the authorities) aren’t able to efficiently settle basic operational problems like this, then I’m unsure how much they will be able to help farmers achieve the target they’re aiming for,” he said.

He said he would adopt a wait-and-see attitude on the ministry’s plans to use “modern technology” to achieve the target.

“I’ve seen many new technologies and types of machinery come and go, so I’m not sure how this modern technology will be different from the old technology in terms of how it can help us grow better vegetables,” he said.

Another local farmer in Kg Junjongan said it would require a considerable increase in manpower to be able to feasibly reach the target.

“If I were to achieve a four-fold increase in the output of my farm, I would also need to at least double the number of farm hands to work the field, especially during planting season,” said Orang Kaya Kesuma Hj Mohd Yunos Hj Kamis.

“It’s hard to find locals ready to work on the farms. To be able to reach (the target) nationally would require human resource levels that Brunei doesn’t seem to have at the moment, even with all the machinery,” he said.

Another local farmer known only as Hj Jumat was wary about the feasibility of achieving the target as his experience told him that there will be plenty of new problems that local farmers wouldn’t know how best to resolve.

“We don’t have the same experience like large-scale farmers in neighbouring countries who are capable of dealing with new pests, diseases or technical problems after years of farming at the levels that we’re just about to attempt,” said the former civil servant.

“So five years might be too short a time to try and achieve the target, although it’s better to be ambitious than to be conservative,” he said.The Brunei Times