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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

OVOP products yet to make their mark overseas

Waqiuddin Rajak

NONE of the products introduced under the One Village, One Product (OVOP) initiative have gained recognition overseas, with many hurdles remaining.

OVOP Project Officer Ahmad Fazil Zakaria (pic) told The Brunei Times that eight new products were introduced last year - six of them by village consultative councils (MPKs) in Tutong and two by MPKs in Temburong.

Most of the new products were introduced by Kg Lamunin in Tutong, with its Kuih Sapit, Kuih Lidah and cultural product “Gambus” (traditional music band) services being the highlight, aside from its newly registered tourism product Bintudoh resort along with Kg Kiudang’s homestay.

MPKs in Temburong established products with Kg Labu Estate introducing its Keropok Keladi (taro chips) and Kg Piasau-Piasau its Keropok Labu (pumpkin chips).

With the eight new products, Ahmad Fazil said there are now a total of 162 products registered under the OVOP initiative.

However, he also noted that these products were made by only around 62 of the 179 MPKs established in the sultanate.

“It’s understood that most of these MPKs are still trying their best to find out which products can be elevated as their representative product, their OVOP,” he said.

“It’s not easy because there are factors that need to be considered, including the MPKs’ capability to produce them and finding entrepreneurs to collect them from producers and consistently market them as the villages’ representative products,” he added.

He noted that production consistency is amongst the major factors for villages to be able to conduct large-scale marketing of their products, not just locally but also internationally.

“OVOP is a concept that first began in Japan, but other countries around the region followed suit, including ASEAN countries, and sometimes we also visit them whenever there are programmes and study how they conduct their OVOP-related initiatives,” he said.

“One of the things we noticed was that most of them made use of heavy machinery to consistently make the products. While that might help, we also have to consider the uniqueness of the product, including its taste, if we were to use machinery,” he added.

He gave an example of Keropok Udang (prawn crackers), where for better production and taste, the raw crackers need to be dried under the sun.

“But by doing that, we would also have to take into consideration the weather, which could be a problem if we were to consistently produce them and market them.

“But if we were to use an oven to dry them, the heat wouldn’t be the same as from sunlight, which may also have fluctuating temperatures and perhaps other nutrients, so the quality may also differ from how it was supposed to be when it’s handmade,” he said.

In terms of raw materials, Ahmad Fazil also said that OVOP entrepreneurs may need to find a steady source, especially those who planned to make handicrafts as a village’s representative product.

In other countries, he said, some of the villages had imported resources to sustain their OVOP efforts, including rattan to make all sorts of related handicrafts.

“But alternatively, they could also find new materials that could replace the natural resources without affecting the quality. For instance, Kg Mandaram has its handicrafts made out of fibre strips.

“And these handicrafts, whenever there are VIP visitors coming from overseas for a meeting, their goodie bags will consist of these bags filled with other OVOP products, and the feedback is often positive, as they will come back to seek more of these goods,” he added.

Ahmad Fazil said the government is currently looking at plans to improve the development of the OVOP initiative in the sultanate, including finding venues or channels to promote the products that have the potential to be exported.

“Currently, the OVOP (initiative) may not be enough to help sustain the country’s economy, as it’s still considered small. But we’re doing our best to heed the call to diversify the economy and make its people less dependent on the government.

“Hopefully, we will be able to develop the OVOPs to be more consistent in the future and see products receive international recognition one day,” he said.

Sumber - The Brunei Times

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