The Jakarta Post
In addition to a number of social safety nets provided by the Social Affairs Ministry and other government institutions, the Agriculture Ministry has allocated Rp 1.85 trillion (US$117.6 million) to secure food supplies and help farm workers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo said that, of the total funds, the ministry would spend about Rp 199 billion to provide affordable food at markets, stabilize food prices, procure rice and cover the logistical cost of food distribution.
“To secure food stocks in order to survive the COVID-19 outbreak and to meet the needs during Ramadan and Idul Fitri, the Agriculture Ministry is taking precautionary measures in line with the [the government’s regulations related to the pandemic handling],” Syahrul said in an online hearing with House of Representatives Commission IV, which oversees food and agriculture, on Thursday. “We are taking the measures by adjusting our budget.”
The social restrictions imposed by the government to halt the spread of the COVID-19 have disrupted food supplies. The distribution disruption, coupled with surging demand, has led to an increase in prices.
Syahrul said the ministry would partner with major poultry companies including PT Charoen Pokphan Indonesia, PT Japfa Comfeed Indonesia, PT Tri Putra Panganindo, PT Cimory, PT Indoguna Utama dan PT Agro Boga Utama to procure chickens from smallholders.
The ministry had also cooperated with ride-haling companies to deliver food to consumers, the minister said, adding that the ministry provides cold storage facilities to companies engaged in the sale of processed meat, such as chicken nuggets.
The price of eggs has declined significantly in recent days. In Bogor in West Java, for example, a chicken was sold on average between Rp 9,000 and Rp 10,000 per kilogram, well below the production cost of around Rp 18,000 per kg, according to data released on Wednesday by the Poultry Farmers Association and Information Center (Pinsar Indonesia).
The ministry has also designed similar support for rice farmers hit by the declining price of unhusked rice. With the peak harvest season approaching this month, the average price of unhusked rice continued to fall to Rp 4,936 per kg in March from Rp 5,273 per kg in January, according to data from Statistics Indonesia (BPS).
The ministry, therefore, has encouraged rice millers to use the government’s subsidized micro loan program (KUR to enable them to increase unhusked rice procurement from farmers
The ministry also issued an edict to protect rice distributors from logistical disruption caused by the government’s social restrictions.
“The ministry has also established buffer stocks for eleven staple foods in every province through the Toko Tani [a grocery store tasked with providing affordable food] in partnership with regional governments, state-owned and city-owned enterprises,” said Syahrul, a NasDem Party politician. “Those are the emergency plans we expect to implement until August.”
The ministry is also allocating Rp 1.6 trillion for social safety nets for agricultural workers hit by the outbreak. With that money, the ministry would carry out labor-intensive programs for, among other things, by improving irrigation systems to help provide jobs for farm workers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The remaining Rp 45 billion of the adjusted allocation will be used for COVID-19 handling, including for the procurement of medical equipment and vitamins for its staff.
Not all parties were happy with the ministry’s plan. House Commission IV member, Suhardi Duka, said the ministry’s allocation of Rp 45 billion for medical supplies for its staffs “was too much.” He also opposed the ministry’s plan to control prices.