Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Indonesia targets rice self-sufficiency

JAKARTA, Indonesia, 11 October—“Indonesian law requires the country to maintain food self-sufficiency, but achieving this goal is becoming more and more challenging,” said Dr. Hasil Sembiring, director general for Food Crops with the Ministry of Agriculture for Indonesia. He was addressing a recent forum jointly hosted by the Indonesian Agency for Agriculture Research and Development and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

 “Despite these challenges, the Government of Indonesia is fully committed to achieving self-sufficiency and even export status,” he added. “Almost 56% of our farmers are small-scale subsistence farmers, working less than a half hectare of land. We cannot become food self-sufficient in this way.”

Added to these challenges are: an aging farmer population where 44% are more than 50 years old, limited education with only 25% graduating from elementary school, and a shortage of agriculture extension workers. Indonesia also faces significant agriculture security challenges.

This is the Indonesian agriculture landscape that was described to participants of the forum, Rice and Food Security Indonesia: The global market, scientific research, and action programs. It was an opportunity for individuals from the agriculture sector in Indonesia to gather and discuss current challenges, interventions, and future goals.

Sembiring went on to describe a number of key action programs the Ministry of Agriculture in Indonesia has spearheaded over the past 10 years. These included innovations such as the introduction of farm insurance, seed, and fertilizer subsidies for small-scale farmers; water infrastructure, including dams and improved irrigation channels; and introduction of new high-yielding, stress-tolerant rice varieties. As a result, rice production in the country increased 2.6% during the 2010-15 period. The government’s intention is to continue introducing new innovations and action plans to achieve food self-sufficiency by 2045.

Dr. David Johnson, head of IRRI’s Crop and Environmental Sciences Division, commented on the various elements of the action programs presented by Sembiring. He highlighted the ways in which collaboration between IRRI and Indonesia can help secure Indonesia’s sustainable food security.

Dr. Harry Priyono, secretary-general of the Ministry of Agriculture, represented the Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman.  In his keynote, Dr. Priyono stressed the commitment of the government to the far-reaching goals of the rice program.

In another session, Dr. Sam Mohanty, head of IRRI’s Social Sciences Division, shared his economic insights with the group. “Indonesia’s land rent and hired labor costs compared to other regional competitors are significantly higher,” he said. “This means that the cost of producing 1 ton of rice in Indonesia is almost 50 to 100% greater than the cost to produce rice in China, India, or other ASEAN countries.”

Mohanty went on to explain that the level of mechanization found on Indonesian farms is very low compared to other rice farms in the region. “When it costs more to produce the same amount of rice, it becomes very difficult for a country to remain competitive in the region or to even be able to feed its own population without importing rice,” said Mohanty. While he complimented the Indonesian government on its active engagement in supporting the rice sector, he also urged the government to consider an action program focused on increasing the country’s mechanization.

“Forums such as this allow us to directly engage with policy makers and leaders in agriculture in the countries in which we work,” said IRRI Director General Matthew Morell.

Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, IRRI’s deputy director general for research, added, “The forum is invaluable in increasing our ability to shape our research agenda to suit the needs of those who we serve.”

The forum was attended by more than 125 participants including key officials and staff from the Indonesia’s most influential agriculture agencies. Some officers of private sector corporations also participated.  Members of IRRI’s Board of Trustees, who were in Jakarta for the board meetings, also attended the forum.

Dr. Bruce Tolentino, IRRI’s deputy director general for Communication and Partnerships, moderated the forum.

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