The Jakarta Post
Several lawmakers of the House of Representatives and a pro-domestic farmer group have voiced their opposition to the domestic food supply provisions in the disputed omnibus bill on job creation, arguing that it could weaken domestic farmers’ production and favor importers.
In a meeting held by the House legislative body (Baleg) on Tuesday, some lawmakers expressed their objection during discussion on provisions that would relax food imports as one of the main sources of domestic food supplies. House deputy speaker Rachmad Gobel said the provisions were leaning toward trade liberalization in the food and agriculture sectors.
The controversial bill proposes to revise some articles in the 2013 law on farmers’ protection and empowerment, which stipulates that local sources of food should be prioritized and that imports are only an alternative.
"Don't let the [articles] on food imports pass because our imports are still high. We import salt and sugar although we have plenty of land," the NasDem party politician said on Tuesday.
Rachmad said the House would be careful in deliberating the articles.
"They are our farmers. We must support them no matter what,” he said.
Idham Arsyad of the Indonesian Farmers and Fishermen Awakening Movement (Gerbang Tani) also echoed similar concerns, arguing that the bill could make Indonesia more dependent on food importers. Furthermore, fears had also grown among local farmers that they would not be able to compete with foreign commodities that are produced more efficiently and at cheaper costs.
For example, the production cost of rice per kilogram in Indonesia is two and a half times higher than in Vietnam. Farmers could indeed lose out to imports, he said.
“The bill exists when the country is struggling to break its dependency on imported agricultural products, especially the food sub-sector," Idham said in a written statement.
The group called on the House to stop the deliberation of the controversial bill, especially as people were now focused on dealing with the coronavirus outbreak and the global food crisis.
“The state's efforts to realize food sovereignty, independence and food security are destroyed by the bill. All article provisions relating to strengthening domestic food production are amended and replaced,” he added.
Lawmaker Rieke Diah Pitaloka of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) also questioned the provisions, saying the bill should not remove Article 15 of Law No. 19/2013 on the protection and empowerment of farmers, which mandates the government to prioritize domestic production in order to meet domestic needs.
Agricultural commodity imports should only be carried out depending on the harvest season and/or domestic consumption needs.
"The bill eliminates this obligation. Domestic production should be the priority,” she said.