Bandar Seri Begawan - Foreign investors should look into the booming 62 million people of the BIMP-EAGA sub-regional grouping to invest in, and utilise, Brunei Darussalam's strong 'halal' certification for the processing of halal food products and then to market them regionally.
After they are attracted to BIMP-EAGA (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines East Asean Growth Area), the investors will look to Brunei as the base for such halal industry and business, BIMP-EAGA Business Council (BEBC) Executive Chairman Pg Yura Kesteria Pengiran Setia Negara Pg Hj Mohd Yusuf told the media yesterday on the sidelines of a meeting between Brunei SMEs in preparation for the BIMP-EAGA Strategic Planning Meeting, scheduled to be held in January 2013 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, and the International Food Expo in Manila, Philippines.
"Please invest in Brunei and process your food here," he said. "Brunei is central in the BIMP-EAGA and we stand as a country, while the rest are sub-regions. That's the beauty. Since we have limited land, we can carry out processing here. The planting can be done somewhere else in these sub-regions," he added.
Investors usually see Brunei as a small market with an equally small population. However, they should look at the BIMP-EAGA region, which creates volume for them, the executive chairman said.
"The Brunei halal logo is preferred thanks to the stringent procedures," said Pg Yura Kesteria.
"We have received strong interest from investors from South Korea, China and Japan, especially in the halal food industry. Brunei could become the processing headquarters with raw materials like pineapple, banana, palm oil coming from other BIMP-EAGA countries, for vast Muslim markets like China.
"These investors have the technology and the money. We could attract them to process here and utilise our halal certification.
"Brunei Halal has been there for more than 10 years but we have no takers. If we look at the BIMP-EAGA Leaders Summit statement two years ago, it highlighted that Halal food is the way forward. It is also the rood basket for Asean and the rest of the world. The halal trade stands at more than US$1 trillion. If we get 0.01 per cent, it would be fair enough and would encourage more players to the Sultanate," he pointed out.
"The Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR) has allocated 400 hectares for Halal park and hub, which have been marketed for more than three years. But takers are limited as investors are unaware. Through these activities in BIMP-EAGA, we can promote this halal hub," the executive chairman said.
Meanwhile, Abdul Halim bin Hj Saim, member of the Working Committee of Food Basket Cluster BIMP-EAGA Brunei Business Council and Executive Member of the Brunei Darussalam National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, "We have been inundated with visits and queries from trade delegations in these past months. The Koreans, for instance, are seeking a 200-acre site for poultry farming in Temburong (the chicken will then be supplied to South Korea) and the planting of herbs for medicinal purposes, which we have the advantage of due to the presence of Tongkat Ali, Mengkudu and Peria herbs here in the Sultanate."
Abdul Halim, who is also Chairman of the Brunei-Vietnam Business Council, added, "These investors from South Korea and China are looking at us to supply food for their people as an alternative. They can only produce food during certain seasons - excluding winter. But here, we can farm, fish, and grow vegetables all year round."
Pg Yura Kesteria also added that connectivity is crucial in BIMPEAGA to fast-track goods and services where it is limited. This is where Brunei can take advantage of the opportunity and become an air connectivity hub.
"We can't go to Balikpapan from Brunei. For instance, I have to go to Singapore to go to Balikpapan due to the absence of such connectivity" he said.
"BEBC is encouraging more air and sea connectivity as there will be Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA) by 2015, which means free movement of goods, services and people, thus promoting development. Like it or not, Brunei will be part of it."
Speaking on the upcoming strategic planning meeting in Kota Kinabalu, the executive chairman said it is a great avenue for Brunei businessmen to introduce their projects, express ideas, network and participate in activities to understand the BIMP-EAGA meeting process.
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin