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Sago production, from a cottage industry to an enterprise

Information Department, Brunei Darussalam    Translate This Article
6 January 2013

Brunei Darussalam, January 2013 - A cottage industry is one of the contributors to the economy, be it at a small or large scale, this is one of the conventional methods to earn a source of income which is still practiced to this day. This industry centres on the creating and providing of products and services from home where those produced are normally not mass-produced thus creating a unique product or service.

Before the discovery of oil, cottage industry was one of the main economic generators in Brunei Darussalam. The cottage industry involving those residing at the famous water village or fondly known as Kampong Ayer and on land comprised of cloth weaving; brass work; silverwork; songkok-making; and many more. One that continues to strive to this day is production of sago.

With abundance flora and fauna, luscious green forests and beautiful coral reefs, it is only natural to enjoy the produce of these natural resources, while still protecting it from exploitation or mismanaged.

Sago in Brunei Darussalam is yielded from a type of palm tree locally known as Rumbia which usually grow at swamp forest area. The famous form of sago produced in Brunei's cottage industry is Ambulong, white in colour and quite synonym in the list of local delicacies.

Seeing its potential as a source of revenue, a number of entrepreneurs have set up their respective business focusing on production of Ambulong. This was further emphasised with production of sago listed as one of the projects under the 'One Village, One Product' campaign by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

One of the well-known producers of sago in the country is Perusahaan Sagu Kampung Ukong. Located in Tutong District, the business was established more than 30 years ago. It is the sole producer of sago in the district. Managed by Awang Yali, the business was originally established by his father.

The workshop for the production of the sago is built not far from his residence and equipped with machinery and other items required for the process.

The process of sago production begins with lodging the Rumbia tree from the forest. The tree will be towed out from the forest and put on a heavy vehicle for transportation to the workshop.

The Rumbia's trunk will then be skinned and cut into small pieces about one metre in length. These small pieces will then be inserted into an extraction machine. The purpose of this extract the liquid from the trunks which will then be collected and later mixed with water for cleansing. The cleansing process may consume time as it will go through more than once before carefully labelled as clean.

'For the first stage mixing, usually we use the water taken from nearby river. From second and onwards then we will use tap water,' said one of the workers at the workshop. After few rounds of mixing with and replacing the water, the liquid form of sago will then be placed in a large basin and left to solidified. The remaining water will be removed manually.

Each basin can produce around 70 to 100 kilogrammes of Ambulong. The process of producing Ambulong takes about four-day to complete.

When compared to the olden days where most of the process work involved were carried out manually, today's production are much easier and simpler with the help of modern machinery and technology. Not only it reduced the amount of physical work but it has shortened the number of days involved.

The production is carried out once a week or four to five times per month. Each production will usually involve four trunks of Rumbia trees. The four trunks will produce about 14 to 15 basins of liquid sago.

The sago or Ambulong is later packed in different sizes according to weight. The packaging is usually 500 gram, one kilogram and two kilogrammes. The prices are ranged from $ 0.80 to $ 3.00 depending on weight.

Their products are sold widely at various department stores and market. Customers also will come and purchase directly from them especially those buying in bulk. If stored properly especially in cool places, the sago has a shelf-life up to two months.

One of the challenges faced by this industry is finding the main raw material that is the Rumbia tree as the tree usually grows in swamp forest area.

For Perusahaan Sagu Kampung Ukong, they usually get raw material from swamp forest area in Kampung Kiudang, Tutong District. If the tree coincidently grows on someone's land, they will purchase it at $ 20.00 per trunk.

One of the famous end products of sago or Ambulong is Ambuyat. Ambuyat is made by mixing Ambulong with hot water and stirred thoroughly. It then transforms into Ambuyat which is gluey and tasteless by itself.

Ambuyat is eaten using candas, a kind of v-shaped chopstick. The Ambuyat is rolled with candas and dipped in a sauce usually tempoyak (durian paste) or jeruk binjai (pickle made of a local fruit known as binjai). Do not chew the ambuyat as it can be directly swallow as it has soft texture. Ambuyat is also eaten with variety of side dishes such as ikan rebus (boiled fish), lalap daging (smoked beef) and vegetables like kangkung (spinach) dan paku pakis (fern). Other than Ambuyat, sago is also made into famous traditional delicacies. Kuripit and Kubal are among the traditional delicacies that are produced from sago.

Compared to Kubal, Kuripit can be easily found in the market. Kuripit is favourable among food-producer as the shelf-life of this product is quite long (few months).

Cottage industry in Brunei is here to stay. With the assistance and guidance from the Government of His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam to ensure its sustainability, the cottage industry remains intact with great efforts to preserve it as part of the culture and tradition of Brunei and at the same time, develop it into one of the contributors to the local economy.

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