The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) is a non-profit organization established by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) in 1966.
The "new normal" conditions in Southeast Asia compels SEARCA and all of its key partners to initiate anew a paradigm shift towards accelerating transformation through agricultural innovation (ATTAIN).
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The agriculture and agrifood sectors in Brunei Darussalam have shown considerable progress in 2008–2012 due to the policies and programs implemented under the Medium-Term Strategic Plan 2008–2013 by the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood. Positive and sustainable growth can be seen in the livestock sector, especially in the poultry and eggs production, which has achieved nearly 100 percent self-sufficiency since 1994. Similarly, tropical vegetables also showed an increase in the production trend with approximately 80 percent self-sufficiency.
The National Rice Production Project Towards Self-sufficiency was launched in 2009 with the aim of enhancing local rice production to meet self-sufficiency and ensure national food security. It also aimed to minimize the country’s dependency on importation. Besides upgrading the existing rice-growing areas and introducing improved high-yielding varieties, new areas with modern infrastructure facilities have also been developed. In addition, the department’s advisory services to farmers, supply of subsidized inputs, and buy-back policy of the end-products have encouraged the local people and foreign investors to be involved in paddy production. This trend has paved the way for a new ray of hope to further increase production in the coming years.
The agrifood industry has also developed with the active participation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the establishment of the Small Entrepreneurs Food Incubator Centre with special emphasis on processing, food safety, and quality in line with ISO 17025. The incubator has improved SMEs’ processed food production efficiency with the availability of modern machinery and equipment.
Realizing the potential of the halal industry in the country from the religious perspective and its further expansion overseas, the Brunei Halal Brand (BHB) and its logo were established to penetrate the local and global market. Furthermore, primary industry production through the establishment of the Agrotechnology Park (ATP) (now known as BioInnovation Corridor Zone A) has made a positive impact in promoting agro-tourism activities and introducingnew technologies using the public-private partnership concept. With the establishment of BioInnovation Corridor Zone B, there is a good opportunity to generate a large number of professional, skilled, and semi-skilled jobs with the involvement of local and foreign direct investment. Efforts were made to upgrade the technical competence of the officers and staff of the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood through human resource development activities and participation in trainings/conferences/workshops/meetings, locally and internationally. The department is also now gearing up for ISO 9001.
Despite the progress made, Brunei Darussalam’s agriculture sector experiences challenges in increasing local production to meet the requirement of the growing population. These challenges include less involvement of the youth in agriculture activities, limited availability of suitable land, climate change, limited irrigation facilities, dependency on foreign farm workers, and limited number of experts for conducting research and development activities. All of these need urgent attention and action.
On the other hand, many opportunities do exist in the agriculture and agrifood sectors, which can be tapped and utilized to enhance its development. These opportunities can be explored in activities which lead to increase in productivity, achieving self-sufficiency levels, and employment generation. The primary production sector offers a lucrative potential for agribusiness ventures such as poultry and egg, cattle, vegetables, and fruit crops production, which can be enhanced by adopting improved technologies and providing raw materials for the agrifood industry.
The food processing sector also has potential for progress through the development of halal products, which can infiltrate the global market. Furthermore, the professional service sector, namely: marketing, agribusiness consultation, transportation, and input trading must be explored by the private sector to make a positive impact on the economy through employment opportunities. Encouraging the private research centers through foreign direct investment would also strengthen research and development activities and provide job opportunities for the locals.