The article in Borneo Bulletin 'Brunei sees positive growth in agriculture & agrifood production' has stated that statistics last year revealed that the gross production of agriculture and agrifood has shown a positive growth of B$240.96 million in terms of market value compared to the $228.43 million in 2010 - an increase of $12.53 million or 5.5 per cent.
If we compare ourselves to the neighbouring Malaysian state of Sabah, whose vision for agriculture is to promote Sabah as the centre of excellence and trade for agriculture products in Asia by 2025, they are aiming to multiply the current agriculture GDP four times to RM17 billion, an average compounded growth of eight per cent per annum and reducing Sabah's net food import by 60 per cent.
So are we proud of our achievement? People are talking about billions in agricultural revenue alone, while we are still stuck in millions. It is obvious the poultry industry is the main contributor of the 5.5 per cent increase, valued at $94.06 million, because this industry is mostly owned by people who have strong financial background such as superstores and supermarket owners.
It's nice to hear some 200 people comprised of agricultural entrepreneurs attended the get-together at the Pengkalan Batu Community Hall.
I am also proud to hear that during the gathering, an entrepreneur who happens to be a prominent figure, raised several issues faced by the local farmers. He also questioned the lack of support from the authority in helping the farmers, including the issue of receiving late payment from the government, even up to six months, which would have a serious impact on the farmers who mostly do not have a strong financial background.
How can these farmers cope if they are only paid after six months? If we look at the neighbouring Malaysian state, in supporting their farmers we would not find such a pay scheme. In fact, their authorities go to the farmers themselves to give whatever resources or support the farmers may need.
Instead of the farmers sending their produce to the centre, it's the government that goes and picks them up, solving the issue of transportation. Over here, the farmers have to seek help and have to find their own transport.
In the neighbouring country, if a farmer faces problems it's the authority to be blamed, but here, if farmers face a single problem, the farmers are to be blamed.
It's no point being proud of the $12.53 million or 5.5 per cent increase if the farmers still face the same dilemma year after year, regardless of how many meetings are held where only excuses are given, instead of solutions. The late payment issue that hasn't been resolved yet even after decades is a case in point.