JV firm to export cherry tomatoes to Singapore

A big farm project to be run by a Brunei-Taiwan-Singapore joint venture is expected to be in operation by the end of the year.

The United Agri-Fisheries Market Sdn Bhd (UAF) has leased about 25.3 hectares of land in Tanah Jambu Agricultural Development Area from the Department of Agriculture (DAA) and has planned some 22,000 square metres of greenhouses in the first of three phases of development.

The greenhouses will be mainly growing cherry tomatoes as its primary crop and a variety of Taiwanese hybrid melons as a secondary crop.

"We have already started construction of our greenhouses, we have started to clear land, we have six units running and we are hoping to get our first harvest by early November," said Harold Raps, general manager of UAF during a presentation to the DAA yesterday.

"A lot of the equipment is on the way (from Taiwan), we have nine shipping containers, two are already here and the rest will be here in a few weeks," he said. There are also some water retention sites on location, and he said they will be refurbishing them and using them for irrigation.

In an interview with The Brunei Times, Raps said they are expecting to start off with about three tonnes a month in production, and will eventually scale up to 10 a month.

About nine out of 10 plants grown in the greenhouses will be cherry tomatoes, and most of these will be exported to Singapore, he said.

The rest will be a variety of watermelons, honeydew and rockmelons, with half of this crop aimed for the local market, he said.

Another phase of the project involves rejuvenating some 2,500 fruit trees that are said to be part of the original site.

Raps said these trees had been neglected for the past seven years which impacted their health and production, but fixing that problem will be relatively easy.

To that end, they plan to bring in specialised equipment and fertiliser to rejuvenate these trees.

Raps said what they will be bringing in is the knowledge and expertise of their main partners from Taiwan, farmers who have been in the business for more than 40 years.

"They have refined the cultivation process and a refined methodology for most of these crops from seed planting all the way up to harvesting," he said.

Part of the development of the farm in the later phases will include a training facility that is aimed to help transfer knowledge to local farmers about the methodologies being used there, he said. "We are willing to share this knowledge with local farmers."

According to the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB), UAF is a joint venture between Taiwan's He Xin Farm Group, local company Golden Sdn Bhd and Singapore-based rice research firm Sunland Agri-tech Pte Ltd.

BEDB in April this year said it was facilitating the investment of $23.4 million to develop organic farming and an integrated organic fertiliser plant by UAF.

Raps said yesterday that a majority of that investment will be going into this farm.