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China Firms in B$10m Brunei Rice-Growing and Aquaculture Projects

BRUNEI has netted two landmark deals with companies from China that have agreed to finance two projects in aquaculture and paddy production worth about $10 million.

These are tangible results of Brunei's ongoing drive to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), said the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources.

"We are constantly trying to bring in FDIs into the country and the agreements signed today show exactly that," Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar said.

Speaking to The Brunei Times, the minister said that securing FDIs is key to the nation's goal of diversifying its economy from being dependant on oil and gas. In realising this goal, it is important to develop and promote the country to attract the interest of foreign investors in projects in Brunei, he said.

The minister added that he hoped yesterday's developments would spur on future FDIs into the country.

"Not only do they bring FDI, they also bring foreign expertise which can lead to development and progress," said Pehin Dato Hj Yahya.

The two agreements were signed yesterday at the sidelines of the 31st Asean Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) meeting and the Ninth AMAF Plus Three meeting at The Empire Hotel & Country Club in Jerudong.

The first agreement, an $8-million project, is between Bruneian company Wen Zhong Agro-Science and Technology and Guangxi Wangwangda Farmers Company Limited of China. The two have agreed to cooperate on a 700-hectare paddy plantation at Labi, Belait, the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR) said in a statement.

It stated that the initial phase of the project involves trials for rice varieties brought in from China and will commence planting today.

Phase two of this cooperation will be a large-scale paddy planting which will make use of the variety that has been identified as suitable for Brunei in terms of taste and production.

Ang Swee Chuan, a director at the local partner Wen Zhong Agro-Science and Technology, said the Chinese are bringing their expertise to the project.

"With their assistance, we need to find out which is the suitable one as we will not only be planting one variety but will be testing a number of them. The first harvest will be in February next year and we will be planting throughout the year," Ang said.

The second agreement, a joint venture of an offshore cage culture between a local company and Raoping Jinhang Deep Sea Cage Development Co Limited worth $1.45 million, will form the joint venture company, BioMarine Sdn Bhd.

The company is hoping to culture grouper and cobia which will expect to produce about 400 metric tonnes per year within two years. They hope to sell the produce to markets such as the Chinese Mainland, Hong Kong or Taiwan, the MIPR said.

By opening up the export market, it was hoped that more Bruneians would be encouraged to invest in offshore cage culture which could be exported through the joint-venture company and not just be limited to the local market.

Zheng Zhen Xiong of Raoping Jinhang Deep Sea Cage Development Co Ltd said Brunei's weather and sea conditions are good to rear fishes throughout the year.

"There are already several existing fishes in Brunei and we are hoping to bring in 20 more cages in the future," Zheng said, adding that each cage can produce 15-20 tonnes of fish.

He is also hoping to introduce the Golden Pompano species and his team will be carrying out more research studies for other opportunities.

The minister and Chinese Ambassador to Brunei Tong Xiaoling along with other senior ministry officials were present to witness the signing.

In Courtesy of The Brunei Times

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