Looks at Myanmar and Vietnam; ministry mulls contract farming
Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei is looking into the possibility of finding production capacity abroad, with countries like Myanmar and Vietnam in mind.
This was said by the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar in a recent interview with the Borneo Bulletin at the ministry.
Responding to a question on areas that Brunei and Myanmar could be looking to work together, the minister said there are a number of opportunities.
"In fact, they mentioned the possibility of contract farming and contract manufacturing for some of the products that we sell as Halal," he said. "This is specifically in contract farming and manufacturing for products that we can certify as Halal.
"When we cannot find production capacity in Brunei, we can. find production capacity abroad in countries like Myanmar and Vietnam, particularly when considering the cost and availability of products like raw materials and agriculture products that Brunei cannot supply economically."
Asked if this specifically meant that the country is looking to outsource its production of certain goods, he said, "Yes, in a way it's about finding proper manufacturing facilities there for some of our raw materials and some of our finished products."
He also said, in turn if Brunei has the necessary capacity, then it can buy products like rice and process it here.
"If they allow us to process the rice then there are by-products of rice such as spaghetti or noodles from rice flour. But you have to have enough grain rice to process into flour and manufacturing capacity.
"Manufacturing capacity can be tied in to markets. Once we secure the market for this then we have the ability to produce and to get our own tier."
He underscored that even if products are produced somewhere else, Brunei is still considered as having produced them.
He highlighted that there are a lot of by-products from rice, such as noodles, rice cakes and rice oil for example.
Even if rice is packaged in a different and cleaner way, it can become a by-product, all because of the packaging itself "You can always add value to it by buying quality rice, then selling it as value-added rice by having it ready to cook, for example. Value adding can be done by anybody as long as there are enough materials."
As another example, he said, "With some rice in Japan now, you just put it into a package ready to cook without requiring washing, which means value has been added to it so you can sell it at a higher price."
Specifically, with regards to Myanmar, the minister said, "Firstly of course, we want their rice for our own consumption and food security," adding that if there is anything else that can be packaged from it as a high quality product then it will be considered.
Speaking on where Brunei is now with regards to its own rice production, he said, "Three-four per cent at the moment, below the 2010 target, and now we are hoping that 2015 will see it brought up to a better figure."
Asked what is currently being done to raise that figure, he said, "Infrastructure, more rice fields, training rice farmers to become more productive and increasing the yield by bringing in a high-yield variety, and of course, we need cooperation from other countries, such as Myanmar and Vietnam.
"We hope to bring up more areas as capable rice fields. We have a limited area, so we need to have an effective farm, not just a big field," he continued. "There's no point in a big field that is not productive and it is better to have a small field that is productive.
"We have to lay out a lot of infrastructure into the areas so that they are more productive and not wasted," he added.
On the point of capacity building, he spoke of the importance and the necessity for training our farmers.
"We have the Farmers' Field School, and since its-introduction, the yield from farmers has improved. Instead of one metric tonne per hectare, now they produce three to four. We have managed to increase their output."
Moving on, he said that instead of the normal variety of rice crop, Brunei is now using a high-yield variety.
"The normal variety can only grow once in six months, while the high-yield variety means that within three months you can harvest, so you can have at least two crops a year, as opposed to once a year traditionally.
"We've done away with traditional rice, which usually takes six months, and moved on to a high-yield variety," he continued. "However, a high-yield variety requires a lot of water and good infrastructure. Good infrastructure will support the high-yield rice and help us attain two crops a year."
He also touched on international cooperation, particularly in regards to technology transfer and the exchange of information, as it can help the country with problems like that of acidic soil, which Brunei has.
"Vietnam has had experience in dealing with acidic soil. They call it Acidic Sulphuric Soil," he said. "A lot of our soil is like that, which is why it's difficult to grow in Brunei. We can quicken the learning process by seeing how other countries have managed."
In closing, the minister highlighted that the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources is working on bringing up the country's infrastructure in regards to rice production.
"Now we are at 3,000 hectares, hoping to increase it to 5,000 hectares," he said. "By 2015 we are targeting 60 per cent yield. Hopefully by bringing in more area and more high-yield variety, we can bring it up.
"The main thing is to bring up the infrastructure, manpower and technology to do it," he added.
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin