The Jakarta Post
Although a little late, the production of a much-awaited rural vehicle is likely to be a game changer in the country’s efforts to develop its agriculture industry, as well as in improving the well-being of farmers and realizing food security.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo inaugurated the light pickup truck, called the AMMdes, during the opening of the 2018 Gaikindo Indonesia International Auto Show (GIIAS) in Sepong, Tangerang, last week. The vehicle is part of an Industry Ministry-sponsored program to provide more affordable means of transportation to rural people.
With an engine volume of 500 cc, the light pickup truck can transport agricultural commodities up to 700 kilograms. The truck can be operated as a mobile rice miller.
In the initial stage, truckmaker PT Kiat Mahesa Wintor Indonesia will produce 3,000 to 6,000 AMMdes per year until the end of 2019. The production capacity will be increased to 12,000 to 15,000 units in 2020. With a price of about Rp 70 million (about US$5,000) per unit, the AMMdes is far cheaper than regular light pickup trucks, which cost at least Rp 125 million each.
The initiative indicates the government’s commitment to solving transportation and technology problems, which have long kept our farmers’ competitiveness low. Indonesia lags behind other ASEAN countries when it comes to the modernization of farming technology.
It is also the reason Indonesia’s farming productivity cannot match that of, for example, Thailand and Vietnam, the main rice exporters in the region. Agriculture production in the two ASEAN neighbors is more efficient than in Indonesia because of their more efficient transportation of agricultural commodities from villages to cities. The use of more advanced technology in the two countries also significantly reduces their farming costs.
The production of AMMdes will certainly help rural transportation in Indonesia. However, what the farmers really need is cheaper and applicable farming equipment, such as hand tractors. At present, hand tractors produced by Japanese companies, priced at between Rp 7 million and Rp 30 million (depending on their size), are too expensive.
The modernization of farming technology cannot be avoided. Otherwise, Indonesia will be unable to meet its target to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of several basic commodities, such as rice, and as a consequence will continue to rely on imports. Modern technology is needed not only to improve productivity and quality but also to solve manpower problems, as most young people in villages prefer to work in factories rather than work as farmers.
After the mass production of AMMdes, innovation in farming technology should follow. These days, modern technology is more important than ever as we have to further boost the production of staple food to meet the rising demand of the country’s growing population.
Beyond meeting the need to feed every mouth, however, the technology should also produce healthy food in order to develop a strong nation.