Sultan harvests 'Laila'
By Azlan Othman

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday officiated the harvesting ceremony of 'Padi Laila 2009' at the Agriculture Development area of Wasan paddy planting project.

In a highly symbolic gesture, His Majesty, armed with a traditional basket and knife, held the harvested paddy in the air to the applause of the invited guests and farmers.

The national food security drive to increase rice production has been highlighted in the monarch's titahs and the Agriculture Department has been carrying out projects in full force to increase the target of rice production to 20 per cent in 2010 and subsequently 60 per cent in 2015.

The ceremony yesterday was a follow up to the paddy planting towards self-sufficiency in national rice production and the declaration of the new name for the local rice variety - 'Padi Laila' - on April 27, 2009 at the same place. Formerly, the local rice variety was known as Brunei Darussalam Rice (BDR1).

The ceremony also kicked-started the harvesting activity in Kg Wasan in the Brunei-Muara District followed by other harvesting activities in the other districts.

Also joining His Majesty to harvest paddy 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 'Abdul 'Azim, HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik and Prince 'Abdul Mateen.

Earlier, His Majesty was welcomed on arrival by the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Yahya; Deputy Minister, Dato Paduka Awg Hj Hamdillah; Permanent Secretary, Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Hamid; Acting Director of Agriculture, Hjh Normah Suria Hayati, and senior officers.

His Majesty and other members of the royal family harvested the paddy using the traditional method and viewed an exhibition of food dishes made with 'Laila' rice, Wasan Vocational School exhibition, Philrice exhibition from the Philippines, as well as threshing, drying and milling demonstration using the thresher, flatbed dryer and portable rice miller machines.

The monarch also harvested the paddy using the Combine Harvester machine and later went to the main tower to view KOSEKA farmers harvesting paddy.

The Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources has reviewed the rice production programme, enhancing the production from 3.12 per cent (982.9 mt a year) in 2007 to 20 pre cent self-sufficiency (6,000 mt annually) in 2010 through a short-term plan and 60 per cent self-sufficiency (18,000 mt annually) in 2015 through a medium-term plan.

The short-term plan also known as Plan A runs from 2009 to 2010 and covers four approaches, namely extension of the existing areas and opening up new ones, enhancing the infrastructure of the existing field such as main roads, effective irrigation and drainage, as well as to flatten areas, changing of seedlings from traditional varieties to a high-yielding variety and capable to be planted twice a year and to provide relevant courses to the Agricultural Department staff and entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, the medium-term plan will be implemented from 2011 to 2015 and is based on three core approaches namely upgrading the infrastructure at Sangkuang and Labi paddy lots in Belait, Lekiun, Peradayan and Senukoh in Temburong as well as to plant the high-yielding variety twice a year in all fields and to continue technology enhancement efforts and capabilities of the human resources.

Besides short and medium-term plans, the department has also planned alternative action plans, plan B and C, to ascertain that the 20-per cent target in 2010 is achievable.

Plan B covers the opening of new areas such as Buau, Kandol, Labi Baru and Lot Sengkuang in Belait and Limau Manis in the Brunei-Muara District and the planting of high-yielding variety in these areas between November 2009 and February 2010.

Meanwhile, Plan C was to plant paddy outside the season from April-July 2009 at the existing areas in all the four districts.

A ceremony to open up new paddy planting areas in the Brunei-Muara District was held on July 18, 2009 in Kg Batong. It is an addition to the existing paddy planting sites in the Brunei-Muara District, namely at Wasan and Bebuloh.

A research conducted on the infrastructure plan has indicated that some 1,344 hectares have the potential to plant paddy in the district, namely Wasan, Bebuloh, Batong, Pengkalan Batu-Panchur Murai, Sibongkok-Parit, Junjungan and Limau Manis, capable of producing 8,064 mt annually (26 per cent self-sufficiency). The 200-hectare site in Batong alone has the potential to see paddy planting done commercially. - Borneo Bulletin (4th August 2009)