The Jakarta Post
To meet the government's promise of food sovereignty, the new agriculture minister has targeted boosting the production of staple foods in order to reduce imports.
Newly installed Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman, a 46-year-old entrepreneur-cum-academic, said Tuesday that the focus for self-sufficiency in the short-term would be on four key food commodities ' rice, corn, soybeans and sugar ' which Indonesia currently imports.
'Our target for self-sufficiency is to cut imports [...] We hope that in the next three or four years, we can be self-sufficient in these commodities,' he said as quoted by local media.
Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation, is struggling to meet rising demand for staple foods as its inhabitants hit 240 million, while its agricultural output has consistently dwindled due to a variety of issues from shrinking farming areas to the failure to modernize its agricultural sector.
Food supply shortages constantly force the government to take the last resort, which is to import, as inflationary pressures peak.
Soybean demand totals 2.3 million tons each year, but production only reaches 800,000 tons.
To attain such a big aspiration of self-sufficiency, Amran said the ministry under his command would revitalize irrigation infrastructure, a move that he claimed could save 1 million hectares of land across the country.
This effort is also in line with the idea consistently conveyed by President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo during his presidential campaign to build a sizeable number of dams and irrigation channels to advance the agricultural sector.
Apart from that, the ministry would also try to mechanize agriculture to help attain higher harvests, expand planting areas and roll out an agricultural insurance program for farmers to manage risks from their farming activities, added Amran, who owns a set of 10 manufacturing and trading businesses under the Tiran Group of which he is the founder, including gold and nickel mines, sugar mills, oil-palm plantations and pesticide factories.
However, business players and economists have warned that achieving the self-sufficiency target will not be an easy task as there are many problems to be addressed before reform can take place.
Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef) director Enny Sri Hartati said that over the past decade, the agricultural sector had been terribly mismanaged, thereby requiring a concerted effort to fix it.
'Our agricultural sector has faced a serious setback in the past ten years, including the institutions, and we need a kind of revolution, not just reform, from the upstream to the downstream sides,' she told The Jakarta Post.
Similarly, Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) agricultural market development committee head Karen Tambayong expressed her pessimistic view on fulfilling the self-sufficiency target in the next five years, but said the government could, however, work toward achieving it in stages.
Amran, who was born in Bone on April 27, 1968, received a PhD in agricultural studies from Hasanuddin University and previously worked as a lecturer at his alma mater before moving to state-owned plantation firm PTPN XIV. During Amran's inauguration, Jokowi described him as 'a young farmer who succeeded in building an entrepreneurial model'.