The Jakarta Post
The government brought forward the rice-planting season this year to ensure sufficient supply, and it now estimates a harvest of 12.5 million to 15 million tons by December.
The planting season started in May and June so that the harvest season will be in August and September. Indonesian farmers usually plant and harvest their rice later in the year when rainfalls increase after the first planting season in March as the country faces droughts in May.
“We have pushed forward the planting season as the Food and Agriculture Organization warned about a drought and the World Food Programme [WFP] about a food crisis in the world after the COVID-19 pandemic,” Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo said in a virtual discussion on Thursday.
With the accelerated planting season, the rice supply is expected to result in a surplus of 6.1 million tons at the end of the year, Syahrul said.
The rice will be grown in 5.6 million hectares of paddies. Indonesia relies heavily on East Java, West Java, Central Java, South Sulawesi, South Sumatra, Lampung, South Kalimantan and North Sumatra as the main rice-producing provinces.
The government is ramping up rice production after the country recorded a decline in production of 13.2 percent year-on-year to 16.1 million tons in the first half of 2020, according to an estimate by the WFP’s Indonesia office.
The WFP reported that Indonesia’s rice production was down because of the prolonged drought in 2019, which delayed planting and the peak of the harvest season from March to April, and floods that damaged the crops. This aggravated the downward trend since 2018.
The government was seeking to maintain production by providing farmers with irrigation facilities and developing 164,598 ha of paddies in Central Kalimantan, said the minister, a NasDem Party politician.
But Indonesia is still facing challenges in easing the pandemic’s economic impact on farmers, who are mostly net consumers.
Farmers’ terms of trade, which indicate farmers’ welfare, rose slightly by 0.13 percent to 99.60 in June from May, Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data show. However, they remained below the key threshold of 100, meaning that farmers’ expenses exceeded their income as they struggled to sell their products because of declining demand and disrupted logistics.
Bustanul Arifin, an economist specializing in agriculture at the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), said on Thursday the government needed to provide social assistance to farmers, improve Indonesia's food logistics and order the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) to buy rice from farmers.
“This is what can improve our resilience against a food crisis,” Bustanul said, adding that Indonesia should “seriously take note” about the declining rice productivity as consumption kept rising.
Bulog president director Budi Waseso said on Thursday that the government’s buffer stock now stood at 1.3 million tons, which is distributed across the country.
“With respect to the warning of the food crisis, there is an issue of supply,” said Waseso. “Although it is not really a big deal for Indonesia, we cannot underestimate it. Our buffer stock at Bulog has to be as strong as possible.”