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JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – The issue of food security is a strategic issue in the democratic-party for the 2019 Presidential Election. In fact, this issue was included as one of the themes of the second round of debates on late Sunday (02/17).

This issue is becoming more strategic when it becomes the vision and mission platform of the Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Salahunddin Uno camp through three priority programs: self-sufficiency in food, energy and clean water, which calls a counter-discourse on the government’s current agricultural policies.

However, long before this issue has become a priority policy of the Joko Widodo’ government through efforts to increase production, productivity and efforts to stabilize supply and prices to ensure the affordability of food consumption raised since 2014.

Although it has not been achieved perfectly, Widodo’ agricultural development orientation has begun to appear. This can be seen from the indications of food production, especially rice. In 2015, referring to the fixed figures from Indonesia Statistics, rice production reached 75.55 million tons of milled dry grain.

Based on the Ministry of Agriculture data, Indonesia’s rice production in 2015 was 43.9 million tons and consumption was 31.9 million tons (surplus of 12 million tons). Then, 2016 amounted to 44.9 million tons, and consumption reached 32.3 million tons (surplus of 12.6 million tons). Then, in 2017 production reached 46.2 million tons and consumption 32.7 million tons (a surplus of 11.9 million tons).

In 2018, rice production reached 47.4 million tons with consumption of 33.1 million tons (surplus of 12.7 million tons). Then in 2019, rice production is estimated to increase to 48.6 million tons with consumption of 33.5 million tons, and a surplus of 13.5 million tons.

Despite the surplus, it turns out that most of the rice production is still controlled by the people (farmers, mills, traders and consumers), and a small portion that is controlled by the government (through Indonesian Logistic).

Referring to the results of the Statistics survey (2015), rice is spread across households (47.57 percent), BULOG (19.30 percent), traders (18.32 percent), milling (8.22 percent), and others (6.59 percent).

With a high production, the government has exported rice, corn, soybeans, shallots and chili in 2015 reached 290,035 tons, from 2014 only at 115,617 tons. Especially for rice exports, in 2015 there were 519.5 thousand tons, 2016 as many as 999.1 thousand tons, 2017 as many as 3.6 thousand tons, and 2018 as many as 3.2 million tons.

However, the Widodo’ government is still struggling to import food. In 2015, medium rice imports amounted to 1.5 million tons. Then in 2016 amounted to 1.3 million tons, 2017 as many as 305 thousand tons, and 2018 as many as 2.2 million tons.

Statistics Indonesia noted that one of the biggest imports of foodstuffs was wheat and meslin which reached 9.2 million tons, followed by sugar commodities weighing 4.6 million tons, salt 2.5 million tons, soybeans 2.4 million tons and rice 2.2 million tons.

In 2017, total imports of salt amounted to 2.5 million tons, then rose to 2.8 million tons in 2018. Meanwhile, total 2016 imports of corn amounted to 1.3 million tons, from 2015 which was 3.3 million tons. Then sugar imports have increased sharply from 4.4 million tons in 2017 to 5.02 million tons in 2018. Imports of sugar have become the highest in the world.

At the same time, animal feed companies actually import wheat as a substitute for corn. As a result, wheat imports in 2016 amounted to 2.2 million tons and rose to 3.1 million tons in 2017. In contrast to wheat, corn imports in 2017 continued to fall to 517 thousand tons, but rose again to 737 thousand tons in 2018.

For the price of wheat is expensive, finally at the end of 2018, the government has decided to re-import 100,000 tons of corn, while local corn production is still around 13 million tons. Then in January, BULOG re-imported 150,000 tons of corn for animal feed needs.

In addition, imports of beef and buffalo meat are also still being carried out. Even the import of buffalo meat in 2016 was recorded at up to 80,000 tons from India.

At present, the public is screaming because the prices of a number of commodities are still relatively high, while people’s purchasing power is lower and the logistics costs of goods are triggered by the increase in airplane ticket prices and paid baggage. On the other side, infrastructure development has not provided trickle down effect on the structural quality of domestic logistics costs.

If we refer to our food trade (export and import) transactions, since 2007 there has been a deficit and the highest occurred in 2011 amounting to US$ 4.2 billion. Then finally in 2018 there was still a deficit of $ 2.9 billion.

Meanwhile, the efforts to increase production and control of food prices on the market are faced with a variety of inhibiting factors, including climate change anomalies, damaged irrigation networks, narrow farmers’ land ownership, and agricultural technology that is not ready to be utilized, as well as the intervention of certain parties in downstream (food cartel practice).

The government has indeed changed regulations from tenders to direct appointments, repairs irrigation infrastructure on 3 million hectares of rice fields and provided assistance with agricultural machinery (180 thousand units), improved handling of on-farm and post-harvest.

The government also focuses on reducing production costs and controlling production prices through infrastructure procurement policies and seed and fertilizer subsidies. Meanwhile, the BULOG and the Ministry of Trade have also set government purchase prices and floor prices and ceiling prices.

However, so far the government has focused too much on downstream businesses, namely controlling prices to remain cheap and affordable. In fact, economically, government policy should follow the law of demand and supply. Because the price emphasis will result in sluggish sales and turn off production.

Therefore, the government should put more importance on restoration at the upstream level of the industry and increase production through simplification of the area of ​​food production, so food productivity is greater than land rent.

Written by Daniel Deha, Email: daniel@theinsiderstories.com

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