The Minister of Industry & Primary Resources Pehin Dato Dr Hj Awg Ahmad bin Hj Jumat yesterday morning joined the local people in harvesting the paddy field of Royal Brunei Armed Forces retirees in Ladang Padi Wasan, Brunei-Muara.
The Minister was the guest of honour at the 'Gotong Royong Mengetam Padi' event.
The manager of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Retirees' Rice Farm, Lt Col (R) Hj Mohd Sahlan bin Hidup, thanked the Agriculture Department and Ministry of Industry & Primary Resources for supporting the paddy farming project.
With the introduction of a new type of paddy, the farm will be able to harvest rice twice a year, he said. Only two tonnes of rice can be produced per hectare using common paddy. However, by using the new type of paddy, farmers will be able to produce four tonnes of rice per hectare.
The manager of the rice farm hopes to increase production in the next two years.
The project will be extended to other farms of RBAF retirees aged between 38 and 45 years. Proposals have been made in Tutong and Lamunin as well as some 500 acres in Temburong and 1,000 acres in Labi, he added.
There are also plans to establish a cooperation called "Koperasi Setia Kawan" (Faithful Friends Cooperation) so that farmers can rent machines for harvesting, drying and planting, Lt Col (R) Hj Mohd Sahlan said.
Since September 2006, the 202-hectare rice farm has been attended to by some 170 retired ex-military personnel and 73 paddy growers of Mukim Pengkalan Batu.
It is estimated that production at the Wasan Rice Farm would be around 150 metric tonnes for the main season of September 2006 and the average rate of production is estimated to be between 1.5 and 2.5 metric tonnes per hectare. Based on these estimates, the farm could contribute to roughly 14.5 per cent of local rice production.
The Agriculture Department provides farmers with a number of incentives such as the supply of seeds including Pusu for the first planting season. Other incentives include supplying fertilisers, pesticides and fungicide as well as machineries that are sold at half price.
Aside from providing basic infrastructure such as constructing roads leading to farms and maintaining drainage systems, the department also provides training to paddy planters.
Also present at yesterday's event were: Deputy Minister of Industry & Primary Resources, Dato Paduka Hj Hamdillah bin Hj Abd Wahab; Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry & Primary Resources, Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Hamid bin Hj Mohd Jaafar; Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry & Primary Resources, Pg Hjh Mariana bte Pg Dipa Negara Laila Di Raja Pg Hj Momin; heads of departments as well as officers from the Agriculture Department.