Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | 15:26 WIB

The Gov’t Food Estate Program A look towards a solution to Indonesia’s food security

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Jakarta, IO – As a key aspect of its “National Economic Recovery” program, the Government of Indonesia has put in place and developed a national “Food Estate Program” – starting in 2020, coinciding with the declaration of a global health emergency and the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. 

The subsequent imposition of severe social controls, along with the peculiar vagaries of climate change manifested through “El Niño” and “La Niña”, spurred the acceleration of what is known as “food estates”, developed to ensure that vital nutritional sources for the millions of Indonesians are not hostage to uncertain imports. 

Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto first presented President Joko Widodo with a situational brief while outlining the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A consensus of experts and officials has highlighted COVID-19 as a meaningful threat to our national food security, considering Indonesia’s extreme dependence on imported food staples, exacerbated by the relatively low productivity of Indonesian farmers. 

To deal with a rapidly-shifting market environment, three strategies for effective food estate development were proposed, within the initial meetings. The first would be to dedicate specific land resources toward a special sector for a certain commodity, chosen for its agricultural and nutritional value. 

A second strategy involved the design of a profitable and sustainable business model from harvest yields, aimed at bolstering national economic recovery. 

The third strategy would manifest as the incorporation of Government-supervised food estates as an integral part of the Indonesian defense matrix, based on Law No. 3, Year 2002. 

A refined version of the proposal was discussed in detail and approved for submission to the President, who then instructed four key ministries to design and implement a food estate program, for urgent support of national food security: the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Maritime and Fisheries and the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime and Investment Affairs. Each of these ministries would be assigned a “priority commodity” and would be responsible for creating unique strategies. Further, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Housing was appointed to be a support organ for food estate infrastructure development. 

The Ministry of Agriculture determined to prioritize the rice commodity, and would concentrate on exploiting existing peatland. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense would focus on a cassava commodity, looking to produce tapioca and MOCAF. The Ministry of Maritime and Fisheries would naturally work to develop shrimp estates, through revitalization of numerous existing shrimp farms across the archipelago. Lastly, the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime and Investment Affairs decided on the cultivation and harvest of vegetables and sweet corn. 

It was early in the pandemic that the urgent food security program commenced. In February 2020, the project was officially defined in Government Regulation No. 23 Year 2020, on National Economy Recovery to manage COVID-19. The timing of this program proved a crucial one, as agriculture is a fundamental aspect in life; any disturbance in cultivation, harvest and marketing of food produced by the agricultural sector would exert a strong effect on other vital sectors everyday life for the citizenry. 

Surviving in Dangerous Times 

The Indonesian government’s implementation of the Community Activities Restrictions Enforcement (PPKM) early in the pandemic affected every aspect of farming, from upstream to downstream. It has been felt since April 2020 in every contact in the food supply chain, including those involving farmers, suppliers of farming inputs, and the processing, distribution, transportation, and marketing of agricultural products. FAO has asked nations to be informed about the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has severely damaged numerous economic sectors, raising the possibility of a food shortage and disaster. Furthermore, because each nation is concentrating on its own needs, the trend of global food export limitations has developed recently. 

On April 22, 2020, during a closed-door Cabinet meeting, the President gave the ministers directives to safeguard the nation’s food supplies and guarantee that the public has secure access to food. Indonesia announced the imposition of food security, allocating 168 thousand hectares of underutilized farming areas in areas like Gunung Mas, Pulang Pisau (Central Kalimantan), Merauke (Papua), Hasudutan (North Sumatra), the southern coast of Java, and West Nusa Tenggara, as a response to the threat of a food crisis. Numerous of them were once wetlands, peatlands, vital Forest Management Rights land, shrimp farms, and Merauke Food Estate property. 

All ministries then provided a land suitable for farming development in accordance with specified criteria based on the coordination results between the Coordinating Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Public Infrastructure and Housing, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning/National Land Agency, Ministry of Villages, and Ministry of Agriculture, which were overseen by the Coordinating Ministry of Economy on June 18, 2020. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry granted permission to use the land in forest areas for the development of this food estate; all forest areas, including convertible, limited production, and protected forests, are acceptable for use, with the exception of conservation areas, which are off-limits to farming. 

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