The Indonesian government plans to build a food estate in Kapuas and Pulang Pisau in Central Kalimantan and Humbang Hasundutan in North Sumatra - Photo by President Office

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – The Indonesian government plans to build a food estate in Kapuas and Pulang Pisau in Central Kalimantan and Humbang Hasundutan in North Sumatra, said the head of states today. Apart from the two provinces, the government also considered to develope similar clusters in Papua, East Nusa Tenggara, and South Sumatra provinces.

“What we have to do is to anticipate the food crisis caused the pandemic, climate change, and reduce our dependence on food imports. A number of progresses although there are several things must be completed, such as land and food testing,” said President Joko Widodo in a virtual limited meeting today (09/23).

The food estate project became one of the National Strategic Programs for 2020 – 2024. He has ordered defense minister, Prabowo Subianto, to lead the projects.

To strengthen this program, President asked the relevant ministers to formulate a master plan that can be completed immediately, both for irrigation covering an area of ​​148,000 hectares and non-irrigated land covering an area of ​​622,000 hectares for plant development cassava, rice and livestock.

He also asked the supporting infrastructure, like roads to be prepared so that various modern agricultural tools would not have difficulty entering the field. He stated, “I ask this food estate to be calculated accurately, who works, what plants will be planted, what technology will be used and the financing model.”

The government planned to develop 20,704-hectare new farmlands in the regency. The 5,840 hectares of which were already functioned as farmlands. In total, there would be around 165,000 hectares of potential farmlands in Central Kalimantan to be turned into the national food estate. To date, some 85,500 hectares have been functioned as productive farmlands.

He hope the food estate could produce up to 740,000 tons of rice in one time harvest or 1.48 million tons of rice per year. The development of the food estates is expected to be completed in 2022 and to raises the rice and corn production, with an expected yield of two tons of rice per hectare.

Even before the emergence of COVID-19, Indonesia’ food security has long been a source of concern due to the country’s reliance on staple food imports to meet domestic demand for commodities such as sugar, rice, corn, and beef. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the wide-ranging health and economic impacts of COVID-19 have put pressure on the already fragile system and thrust the issue of food security back into Indonesia’ political discourse.

The virus crisis has aggravated Indonesia’ food security issues. In late April, a month after the country’ first outbreak, Widodo reported that key commodities, such as garlic, sugar, chili, and chicken eggs, were in short supply in more than 20 provinces, while rice, a staple food for Indonesians, was lacking in seven provinces.

His identification and call to action on the issues of supply, distribution, and price indicates that the threat of a looming food shortage in Indonesia is very real. Even the issue has been his second term main economic program with vice president Ma’ruf Amin.

The World Food Program has estimated that the country experienced a decline in rice production of 13.2 percent year-on-year to 16.1 million tons in the first half of 2020. Statistics Indonesia data also showed that the country’ rice production had already fallen by 7.75 percent to 31.31 million tons in 2019, compared to 2018.

In the same year, the land area used to cultivate rice fell by 6.15 percent year-on-year to 10.68 million hectares. Annual production in Indonesia has been in decline since 2016, with a drop of 7.75 percent in 2018 – 2019 alone. In 2019, Indonesia’ domestic rice production reached 31.31 million tons, which only just outstripped demand of 29.6 million tons, requiring surplus stocks to be imported from Vietnam, India, and Myanmar.

While food imports have long provided Indonesia with a security net to help meet and buffer domestic demand, the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted access to this important lifeline through disruptions to international supply chains and distribution networks. Moreover, several of Indonesia’ import supply markets, such as Vietnam and India, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic placed restrictions on exports or hesitated to sign export contracts due to global distribution disruptions.

Widodo and Subianto, the rival of Indonesian presidential races of both 2014 and 2019, takes food security and farmers’ welfare as their main vision on the economy sector during the campaign. Know when the president picks Subianto to lead the sector, both look to try to fulfill their promises.

While, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization recent report, the world stands on the brink of a food crisis worse than any seen for at least 50 years.

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