Sultan officiates new paddy fields, awards land titles
By Aziz Idris, Fadhil Yunus & Amin Hosni

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday consented to officiate the laying of the foundation stone for the new paddy planting areas in Batang (Agricultural Development in Planting Paddy Project) and Panchur Murai (Kawasan Kemajuan Pertanian Projek Penanaman Padi Batong dan Panchur Murai) in the Tutong District, which will use the latest technology and mechanisms in paddy planting.

His Majesty also consented to present 72 residents with land titles under the Temporary Occupation Licence Land Scheme, at Kampong Menengah Primary School in Lamunin.

His Majesty toured the school before visiting some of the houses of land title recipients.

His Majesty later visited a paddy field in Kampong Pengkalan Tangsi, Lamunin.

A total area of 170 hectares has been allocated at Batong to the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood by MIPR.

The Panchur Murai project is a collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood and Landevel Sdn Bhd, a company based in the Republic of Korea which has brought the latest technology and mechanisms in rice planting to the Sultanate.

This project covers an area of 199 hectares with 175 hectares in paddy fields.

Ms Kim Jim, Director of Landevel Sdn Bhd, told the Bulletin that the company would provide full support in sharing their technological advancement and mechanism in order to assist Brunei towards achieving self-sufficiency in rice production.

"The Brunei Government has provided us 199 hectares of land solely for our research and production of rice, but most importantly we want to share our knowledge and expertise with the Brunei Government, especially local farmers," she added.

According to Ms Kim, the Brunei Government has provided the land and the rest of the capital is spent by the company. They have to report to the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood on their researches and development in rice production in the area.

"As per our agreement, 100 per cent of all our activities will be shared with the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood to continue the national rice production in Brunei," she said.

When asked why the company was investing in Brunei, Ms Kim said, "We are very impressed by His Majesty's commitment to the national food security drive to increase rice production.

"Another reason is that we have noticed that Bruneians are very active in their agricultural industry, not like many other countries who are more interested in the Information Communication Technology.

"We strongly believe in potential possibilities, if we cultivate the area under excellent conditions, of bringing up the rice production in Brunei to 80 per cent or even 100 per cent. But this may take a few years to accomplish," she said.

The pilot project in Kampong Panchur Murai will be divided into two stages: the first sequence of 100 hectares is expected to be completed in late June this year, and the second sequence at the end of September.

After the completion, Landevel will hand over the project to local entrepreneurs but will still monitor the development from time to time.

Commenting on the project in Batong, Hj Tahir Haji Tarip, Penghulu Mukim Pengkalan Batu lauded the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, for implementing strategies to increase rice production.

"This is a significant step by His Majesty's Government in introducing the latest technology and mechanism in agriculture. This will greatly help in upgrading the existing entrepreneurs," he said.

The penghulu also added that this would provide job opportunities for locals and help in the diversification of Brunei's economy. - Borneo Bulletin (16th March 2010)