Mutual cooperation helps to avert food crisis in Indonesia

Jakarta (ANTARA) – The ongoing Russian attack on Ukraine that started on February 24, 2022, has haunted the international community owing to factors, including the potential to trigger a severe food crisis that could lead to starvation globally.

The potential food crisis might increase since several countries dependent on essential commodities produced by Russia and Ukraine, such as Egypt, which still imports 80 percent of wheat from the two nations.

Egypt, which is currently also known as the world’s largest importer of wheat, requires wheat as raw material for flatbread for their citizens’ daily consumption. Any shortage in food commodities, especially wheat, could lead the country to severe hunger crises.

Moreover, based on data from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Russia and Ukraine dominate wheat production, with the supply reaching 40 percent of the world’s wheat requirement.

Russia, apart from Canada and Belarus, is also a major producer of potassium that is also a raw material for fertilizers in several countries, including Indonesia. With the conflict, Russia stopped exporting potassium, thereby resulting in a price increase in fertilizers in several countries.

Indonesia will also be impacted by this crisis since it still imports wheat and raw material for fertilizer.

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During the commemoration of National Family Day in Medan, North Sumatra, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said that the price of noodles and bread made from wheat might increase in the near future.

The government has readied a strategy to prevent a potential global food crisis, including through the establishment of food estates and food diversification.

Food diversification

Executive Director of the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), Tauhid Ahmad, believes that food diversification is achievable by using sago and cassava as replacement for wheat.

However, he admits that there are challenges to this program since each region in Indonesia has different tastes and daily food consumption patterns. It is difficult to change the habit of eating bread and instant noodles and switching to other food commodities, he pointed out.

In addition, sago and cassava processing are still limited and people cannot be forced to switch to those two food commodities in a short time.

To this end, the government must make the most of local food wisdom that exists in each region and not impose dependence on rice as a staple food.

On the other hand, Professor from the Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) Dwi Andreas Santosa remarked that the imports of Indonesia’s eight main imported commodities during the 2011-2021 period had increased by nearly 20 million tons.

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Santosa, concurrently serving as general chair of the Association of Seed Banks and Indonesian Farmer Technology (AB2TI), stated that the condition has reduced the welfare of domestic farmers since the government’s food development program only focuses on consumers and not producers.

The government is expected to focus more on the welfare of small farmers since with the increase in the farmers’ welfare, food production will automatically lead to lowered imports.

Mutual cooperation

However, amid all these obstacles, mutual cooperation, as an Indonesian culture, can become a solution to anticipate the food crises.

Minister of Agriculture Sahrul Yasin Limpo invited all parties from local governments, including farmers, to participate in anticipating the global food crisis, through measures, such as by increasing domestic food stocks.

On several occasions, President Jokowi also invited the public to plant various types of food crops on abandoned lands in order to mitigate the negative impacts arising from the global food chain disruption.

The community, for instance, is advised to plant fast-producing food commodities, such as cassava or corn, to support food security.

The government also established food estates to maintain long-term food security. Food estates are based on a food development concept that is implemented in an integrated manner, including in plantation, agriculture, and animal husbandry, in several areas.

Currently, there are several food estates in Indonesia, located in North Sumatra, Central Kalimantan, East Nusa Tenggara, and South Sumatra.

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Food collaboration

The National Food Agency (NFA) has also held an inaugural coordination meeting with 514 cities and districts in 34 provinces to build collaboration on food stability in producing and consuming regions.

NFA will focus on inter-institutional cooperation, food availability and stability, food and nutrition insecurity, diversification of consumption, and food scarcity.

This program aligns with President Jokowi’s mandate to produce eight strategic foods — rice, cooking oil, granulated sugar, shallots, large chilies, cayenne pepper, broiler chicken, and chicken eggs — as stipulated in Presidential Regulation Number 66 of 2021.

Currently, NFA is focusing on the availability and distribution of local food to be evenly distributed to all regions. The Food Agency will coordinate producing regions with consumptive regions through cooperation between institutions, regions, and the Ministry of Transportation.

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According to Head of NFA Arief Prasetyo Adi, the public should be grateful that amid the food crisis riddling several countries, Indonesia was able to meet its own food requirements and even export strategic food commodities, such as chicken eggs, to many neighboring countries.

This can be achieved due to the high availability of chicken eggs in Indonesia as a result of coordination among all parties towards achieving national food security.

Similarly, Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani stated at the 2022 Securitization Summit in Jakarta that Indonesia’s food security was safe for the last three years.

The minister addressed that in the last three years, Indonesia was still able to meet its needs at a time when various countries experienced significant spikes in food prices.

Mulyani also said that Indonesia’s food security was safe in terms of rice production and other food commodities, both for export and domestic needs. She pointed out that in the midst of the current global geopolitical situation, the government continued to build food security by collaborating with various parties.

By upholding the culture of mutual cooperation in handling food problems, it is hoped that in future, the Indonesian people can unite hand in hand to avoid a potential food crisis that could cause a negative impact on the country.

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