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Jakarta Post

Ministry proposes $69m stimulus for fisheries, aquaculture

  • Mardika Parama, Dzulfiqar Fathur Rahman and Marchio Irfan Gorbiano

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, May 29, 2020   /   09:33 am
Ministry proposes $69m stimulus for fisheries, aquaculture Fishermen from Tanjung Binga village in Belitung Island land their catch in this undated photo. The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry has proposed a Rp 1.02 trillion (US$69 million) stimulus package to aid small scale fishermen and aquaculture farmers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. (JP/Donny Fernando)

The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry has proposed a Rp 1.02 trillion (US$69 million) stimulus package to aid small scale fishermen and aquaculture farmers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister Edhy Prabowo said the stimulus would include social aid for fishermen, fish farmers and salt farmers and funds to strengthen surveillance efforts against poaching.

“We will optimize the budget to help enable fishermen to go on fishing while also providing the farmers with seeds, broodfish and infrastructure,” the minister said in an online press conference after attending a limited Cabinet meeting with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Thursday.

The stimulus package, which was proposed during the meeting, will provide Rp 413.27 billion in funds for fishermen and Rp 406.55 billion to aid aquaculture farmers.

It also includes Rp 36.07 billion for fish processors and marketeers, Rp 54.1 billion for salt farmers, Rp 106.48 billion to strengthen poaching surveillance and Rp 8 billion for internal audits.

“We also would like to have more cold storage facilities to anticipate the possibility of slow demand as several regions are still implementing the large-scale social restrictions [PSBB],” the minister said.

The government has been working to ensure a secure supply of staple food across the country amid disruptions in production and logistics as a result of the pandemic. The government data presented by President Jokowi on April 28 showed that over 20 provinces faced shortages of staple foods, such as garlic, sugar, chili and eggs.

Jokowi, when opening the meeting on Thursday, stressed the requirement to provide incentives for farmers and fishermen to ensure the country’s food security.

Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data show the agriculture, forestry and fishery sector contributed 12.84 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter, the third-largest contributor after manufacturing industry and trade.

Edhy also said state-owned fishery companies PT Perikanan Nusantara (Perinus) and PT Perikanan Indonesia (Perindo) were preparing proposals for around Rp 500 billion each in state capital injections (PMN). The two companies are tasked with buying fishery and aquaculture products to boost demand.

Furthermore, the minister also urged state-owned banks and financial institutions to provide loans for aquaculture farmers.

The government has allocated Rp 34 trillion in loan interest subsidies and loan-payment relaxations for farmers and fishermen through the microcredit program (KUR) and the government's UMi and Mekaar programs, among others.

“I’ve sent out instructions to relax the access and procedures to get the stimulus so that our farmers and fishermen can secure funds and capital,” Jokowi said on Thursday.

Separately, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) environment and development director Stefanos Fotiou said on Thursday that countries should focus on helping poor coastal communities affected by the negative impact of the pandemic.

“In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, the people left behind were people that did not have access to proper health care, they did not have access to proper facilities,” Stefanos said in an online discussion.

The government has projected that up to 3.78 million Indonesians will fall into poverty amid the pandemic, according to its worst-case scenario. That adds to the 24.79 million people who already lived in poverty last year.

Fishermen’s average income have fallen sharply to a range of Rp 1 million to Rp 1.5 million per month from Rp 3 million to Rp 5 million as a result of the pandemic, according to the Office of the Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs and Investment’s human resource development, science and maritime culture deputy, Safri Burhanuddin.

The pandemic is also expected to result in a decline of around 8 percent in production and prices, undoing an upward trend in the previous two years.

The government, he said during the discussion, would disburse Rp 600,000 in cash assistance per month for three months to fishermen and salt farmers, among other workers in the fisheries sector.

“We have done many things now, but of course it takes time and we will see the results after June or September,” Safri said.

“The blue economy is very important for Indonesia as an archipelago so it is our ultimate goal to make it the primary driver of the economy,” he added, referring to the concept of the sustainable use of marine resources to improve economic growth and livelihoods.