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Jakarta Post

Lack of farmland hampers government self-suffiency program

Anggi M. Lubis
Jakarta   ●   Thu, October 17, 2013

As the global community celebrated World Food Day on Wednesday, the government renewed its promise to achieve food self-sufficiency by 2014, despite some visible obstacles.

Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa said the food self-suffiency target could be attained with the expansion of cultivated land in some areas across the archipelago.

At a ministerial meeting on Wednesday, Hatta urged the Forestry Ministry and five governors attending the meeting to procure land to be turned into cultivation areas to support the self-sufficiency

While the Forestry Ministry had pledged to transform 307,000 hectares of forest areas in West and Central Kalimantan into food-producing farmland, Hatta said, land procurement in other provinces across the country was still hampered by the absence of supporting bylaws.

'€œThat'€™s why on the observance of World Food Day, we are reminding them [the governors] to fix their regulations and fulfill their promises to support the program,'€ Hatta said after the meeting.

World Food Day is observed on Oct. 16 to mark the founding of the United Nations'€™ Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945.

Hatta said the government was currently studying the areas in Kalimantan provided by the Forestry Ministry to determine the most suitable crops to be grown on the land. He said the government would likely focus on purchasing land to grow soybeans.

Hatta stressed that the government would also work on improving the country'€™s irrigation systems, half of which are damaged, to keep the self-sufficiency program on track.

'€œBy 2020, we must have at least an additional 2 million hectares of food-producing land to maintain food security,'€ he said.

'€œWe can see how difficult it is to acquire more land. That'€™s why it is also important for us to intensify production on existing farmland,'€ he added.

The government aims to reach self-sufficiency in five commodities, namely rice, soybeans, corn, sugar and beef. By 2014, the country is expected to be able to meet 90 percent of domestic demand from local production.

The program was launched in 2010, but there are no significant results in sight, especially given the frequent importing of commodities and spiking prices that signal failures within the program.

The government has blamed the current situation on declining land availability, rising demand and low productivity.

The government has scrapped its import quotas for beef following shortages and skyrocketing prices, and it has appointed the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) to import frozen meat.

Bulog has also been instructed to import soybeans, whose import duty was scrapped after rising prices '€” attributed to the rupiah depreciating against the US dollar and disrupted production in the US, Indonesia'€™s largest soybean supplier.

The government aims to add 350,000 hectares of sugarcane plantation as part of the program. Agriculture Ministry data shows that only around 9,000 hectares of new sugarcane plantations were acquired between 2010 and 2013.

The government also plans to add 500,000 hectares to achieve the target of producing 2.7 million tons of sugar to meet domestic demand but so far, no new land has been acquired.

Agriculture Minister Suswono admitted that the country may fail to reach the self-sufficiency targets, but added that the government would go ahead with the plan, saying that it would use the remaining time to optimize results '€” including expanding food-producing farmland.

'€œWe are currently evaluating what is behind the program'€™s sluggish progress. If for whatever reason the self-sufficiency program fails, we will at least have inputs for the next government to prepare a road map,'€ Suswono said.