Brunei identifies 3,000ha of land for padi cultivation
By Sonia K.

The Department of Agriculture has identified low lands that have potential to be developed into large-scale padi fields such as a 1000ha field in Piasau Piasau, 1000ha in Limau Manis and 1000ha in Labi Baru.

According to rice production trends from the year 1998-2007, the local rice production has increased yearly with 982.9 metric tonnes (mt) of rice produced last year in fields throughout the country.

Following the programme to increase padi production, Brunei's short-term target for 2010 is to increase local rice production to 20 per cent of the country's self-sufficiency rate. However, by 2015, the country is targeting to increase local rice production to the level of 60 per cent.

These plans were revealed during His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office working visit yesterday to the padi plantation area in Kampong Wasan.

The Agricultural Department under the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources provided information that showed critical factors that promise the increase in local rice production have been identified and can be achieved through opening new padi fields, improving infrastructure of the fields and by using high yielding varieties of padi that are not photoperiod-sensitive.

High yield varieties of padi have been arranged for the padi field in the Brunei-Muara, Belait and Temburong Districts. This is estimated to cost $50million.

In the Tutong District, planting local rice such as Pusu, Bario and Adan will be continued.

In addition to efforts on improving the agronomy field businesses, developing and improving farmers and their workers' abilities, the establishment of a Rice Research Centre as well as improvements in plantation technology will be continued.

According to statistics from the Agriculture Department, in 2007, the quantity of rice needed for the residents of Brunei Darussalam was 31,242mt, which was estimated to have been worth B$37.05 million.

The total usage per capita is estimated at 80.1kg per person every year.

Currently, the production of local rice at 982.9mt is only 3.15 per cent self-sufficient and is estimated to be worth B$2.86 million. Currently, the total number of farmers working in all four districts is 1,233 and the total farm area is 1,354ha.

This means that the average production a hectare is 0.7mt/ha.

A huge quantity of rice needed for Brunei's consumption is imported - 29,252mt worth $34.19 million.

The total farming area of Wasan and Bebuloh is 310.5ha with 257 farmers. These fields produce 224mt of rice.

In the Tutong District, most of the padi fields are located in Mukim Rambai. It covers an area of 191.57ha and has 273 farmers. Last season the fields produced 149.7mt of rice.

The Belait District currently has the largest padi field in Brunei covering an area of 469.1ha. It has 349 farmers and it produced 344.7mt of rice for the country's consumption.

Temburong District has padi fields located in Lekiun-Perdayan, Senukoh and Selapon covering 382.4ha. The fields have a total of 354 farmers and produced 264.5mt of rice last season.

According to MIPR, the development of infrastructure needs to be improved. Other areas that need improvement to boost rice production include agronomy field management, farmers' skills, agricultural staff, the establishment of Rice Research Centre, as well as the improvement of estate technology and "Lepastuai".

The implementation target for the rice production development programme is to boost the production to 20 per cent, which is 6,000mt of rice from 2,783ha by the year 2010 and to improve production to 60 per cent by 2015.

The implementation plan has two aspects, infrastructure at the present area and the variety exchange of the proposed fields.

The infrastructure development will begin in 2009 and is expected to end in mid-2010 and the variety exchange will be implemented after the cultivation season of 2008/2009, which is mid-2009 until mid-2010. - Borneo Bulletin (3rd Dec 2008)