Farmers worried over influx of foreign produce

National 2 minutes, 20 seconds

BRUNEI-MUARA

FARMERS in Brunei have expressed concern over the prevalence of unauthorised foreign-grown produce being sold in local markets which is hurting their profits.

One local farmer, Hj Asmali Hj Mohammad, said during a phone interview with The Brunei Times that the allure for foreign farmers of selling their produce in Brunei was the high profit margins they could earn compared with selling in their home markets.

“For example, farmers in the neighbouring states could only sell chilies for RM5 per kilo. But when they sell it here (in Brunei), they would only need to sell it at about $3 to double their income, whereas local producers sell it at the market rate of around $6, even increasing (the price) during certain seasons.

“This is hard on local farmers because consumers only care about the low prices and not about the origins or whether the farms practice proper farming standards. Also, local farmers can’t compete with them on prices as the neighbouring states produce much more volume. But if local produce isn’t bought, how will local farmers ever expand?” he said.

Another local farmer, Alihan Alas, said the practice was allowed to continue as it is difficult to enforce it on every single person coming in and out of the country at the border control posts.

“I sell my produce at local markets, and you can tell if it’s foreign produce as there’s no way that the vegetables can be so cheap under present (farming) conditions and the cost of capital.

“If cigarettes can be smuggled in large numbers into the country, then it must be much easier to bring vegetables into the country without a proper permit,” he said.

Alihan, who is the chairman of a local cooperative of vegetable farmers, suggested the establishment of a national distribution centre for all local produce so that unauthorised foreign produce which was smuggled into the country can be easily identified.

“Most of the members (of the cooperative) would agree that the prevalence of smuggled vegetables whose origins are unknown hurts the revenue of local farmers, so it’s better to have all local produce concentrated in one place. In that way, you can also ensure that the vegetables were grown ethically using proper farming practices which don’t harm consumers,” he said.

One vendor at Pasar Tani Selayun in Mukim Sengkurong, who wished to remain unnamed, told The Brunei Times that the foreign-grown produce would only be given a permit to be imported if the vegetables can’t be grown in Brunei or if there is a shortage of them.

“However, you can still sometimes see foreign-registered vehicles coming here to supply certain vegetables which are widely available in Brunei (but they are offering them) for a fraction of the price,” he said.

The Brunei Times