Rice in Indonesia has been considered to be not only main staple but also perceived as a cultural symbol of prosperity. Lumbung or rice barn was often used as a symbol of food security achievements. Current government approaches to food self-sufficiency still puts rice self-sufficiency as a key part of its national agenda. Ronnie Natawidjaja and Irlan A. Rum of Center for Agrifood Policy and Agribusiness Studies (CAPAS) – Padjajaran University reported food security situation and policy in Indonesia.
New Food Law 2012 explicitly states that food security in Indonesia has to be based on domestic food availability and food sovereignty. Food self-sufficiency is defined when 90 per cent of consumption can be met by local production. The logistics agency or BULOG imports 10 per cent to stabilise the rice price. Unfortunately, there is no clear rule about when and how much Indonesia must import rice. As a consequence, policy responses are often coming late and this issue often creates policy debate and uncertainty in markets. Also, the rice domestic market is isolated although rice price has been generally stable (but higher than the international price level). Data from Coordinating Ministry of Economy also suggest that food subsidy for the poor has been increasing since 2007.
According to the Food Law 18/2012, food security is defined as a situation when individuals at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, diversified, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs, food preference and religious requirements for an active and healthy life. However, food security is often misunderstood as securing or protecting our food need and food self-sufficiency is often seen as the only solution.
Data from Statistics Indonesia (BPS) suggest an increasing trend in expenditures on prepared food (as a share of total household expenditure) and decreases in rice expenditures. The trend is related to urbanisation, supermarket transformation and increasing middle income class in Indonesia.
Whilst there has been a decreasing trend in rice import, rice prices continue to increase in the last years. In addition, regional variations exist. Eastern part of Indonesia, in particular Papua, has the biggest challenges to achieve food security due to the lack of infrastructure and low production. Ronnie views that some policy options to achieve food security should include effective trade policy, input and food subsidies, price stabilisation policy, government procurement and reserve stock policy and rice for the poor policy (Raskin).
Two issues that have not been discussed at the session are the following. First, given the increasing role of regional govenrments whether food security is seen as a ‘regional agenda’ where regional (provincial) governments have responsibilities to ensure their regions achieve food security, often be expressed as food self-sufficiency. If it does, regions with low production or with problems accessing food from production areas (due to distance and the lack of infrastructure) will be at risks. Secondly, whilst rice remains the main food commodity there is increasing demand for other food commodities such as animal-based protein sources such as beef and dairy products. One major concern is whether the Indonesian government uses the same quite costly self-sufficiency approach to these commodities. Early observations suggest that the government does.
*This summary was written by Risti Permani (Global Food Studies, University of Adelaide) and may be subject to her personal views.