Royal call to utilise Brunei's fertile land and right climate
By Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam is blessed with fertile land and the right kind of climate for farming, which should be utilised well. His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam added that being a farmer is not a tedious job but one which is highly commendable and encouraged by the religion, as the benefits are reaped not just by certain individuals but for all mankind.

His Majesty delivered a titah at the opening of the Agriculture and Agri-Food Expo 2009 and officiated the 500-hectare Brunei Agro-Technology Park yesterday in Kg Tungku.

The monarch backed his remarks on how farming is encouraged by the religion with verses from Hadith, which says that for Muslims who plant crops that are consumed by mankind, birds and animals, the act would translate to giving alms for them in this world and the hereafter.

"Isn't it clearly indicated that farming is a decent job which if done earnestly would ascertain the people's food security and assist in tackling various difficulties such as in reducing unemployment?" the ruler asked.

The monarch said we should continue to be grateful to Allah SAW for blessing us with comforts and prosperous life as well as providing fertile land appropriate for farming.

"We also enjoy peace and are protected from big calamities such as natural disasters that destroy land and properties.

"There are vast fertile lands on earth but much cannot be utilised by its people. Others are so unfortunate not to have land and suitable climate for food production," said the ruler.

The benevolent ruler added that the global crisis relating to climate change, which is further aggravated by the reduction in potential areas for farming, makes us believe that agriculture, of late, is of paramount importance and has become one of the pressing needs to the country's economy.

As efforts to provide food involve agriculture directly, His Majesty announced that the Department of Agriculture will henceforth be known as the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

"The development of agriculture and agri-food sector calls for a transition from traditional farming to hi-tech agriculture, from small to commercial, large scale and from part-time to full time.

"This requires new approaches es-pecially in management, human resources, financial facilitation and marketing. Agriculture worldwide has undergone rapid transition, hence it is the responsibility of the government to provide a proper environment to explore possibilities.

"In this context, my government through the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources will continue to give assistance, guidance and the right environment to enable agriculture to develop in this country," said His Majesty.

"Farmers, livestock breeders, fishermen and agriculture entrepreneurs are encouraged to participate in greening efforts, without which, government's efforts would be less successful.

"As a recognition towards the efforts of farmers, livestock breeders, fishermen and agriculture entrepreneurs, I wish to declare November 1 as Farmers, Livestock breeders, Fishermen and Agriculture Entrepreneurs Day in the country. The recognition would enable them to continue to assist the government and also help themselves in the process."

Also present at the event were His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, HRH Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah, HRH Prince Hj Jefri Bolkiah, HRH Prince 'Abdul 'Azim, HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik and HRH Prince 'Abdul Mateen.

Earlier, the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Yahya said the expo is an ongoing effort by the ministry in making farming an activity among the people in this country and to show to the public that farming, besides fulfilling religious calls and health needs, would also create business opportunities, become a source of revenue and create employment.

The ministry's focus at present is to enhance production and strengthen competitiveness of agricultural and agri-food products.

His Majesty later presented awards to recipients of the successful entrepreneur award, which went to Soon Lee Farm and Trading Sdn Bhd. They received $10,000 and a trophy courtesy of BLNG and a certificate of appreciation.

The progressive entrepreneur award went to Sahamada Corporation Sdn Bhd and they received $5,000 and a trophy presented by Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) and a certificate of appreciation.

Awg Chien Puong Chin clinched the innovative entrepreneur award and he received $5,000, a trophy, courtesy of Mitsubishi Corporation Sdn Bhd, and a certificate.

His Majesty later toured the displays and booths, starting with exhibits from the Agriculture Department, which is showcasing paddy, Halal brand development, livestock and agri-food industries.

The monarch also toured the agriculture and agri-food clinic meant to answer public queries on issues related to plantation and livestock diseases. Some 195 booths have been set up by both local and foreign participants.

His Majesty later viewed an exhibition of vegetable and fruit gardens. The Agriculture Department is displaying several fruits and vegetable tree models that could turn into a landscape and vegetables that can be planted in the house compounds for a family's daily needs. His Majesty also took a quick glance at live birds, animals, as well as pets. - Borneo Bulletin (20th November 2009)