By: Dr. Poppy Arsil
The circular issued by the minister of utilization of state apparatus and bureaucracy reform of the Republic of Indonesia to provide traditional foods that is based on local foods at formal meetings was controversial as there are pros and cons involved. The arguments supporting the policy are that it can help 1) to encourage people eating more local foods, 2) to promote traditional foods that is based on local foods and 3) to support local farmers and local economy. On the other side, people criticize that eating cassava –the famous example of local foods- is unhealthy as it contains high carbohydrates and may have the potential effects on a person’s health. The information of the food origin is also not available so people can not recognized where the cassava come from, local or imported.
Based on previous research, it is no doubt that the benefits of local food systems can enhance local economy, support local farmers as well as local traders such as traditional food vendors. However, there are some important things that need to be considered by the Indonesian government to strengthen local food programs. Firstly, the meaning of ‘local’ is still not clear. Referring to Department of Agricultural, Republic of Indonesia local foods are “foods including carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals which are produced and developed based on local potential resources and local cultures”. Does ‘local’ refers to 1) political boundaries such as villages, sub-districts, provinces, or islands, or 2) the distance the foods travel? The paper with the title “Perspectives on consumer perceptions of local foods: A view from Indonesia” can be a reference to answer the question with regard to the meaning of ‘local’ in Indonesia (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08974438.2012.755725). Second, government policy on food labelling is really needed. Food labelling can help consumers to check the ingredient and food nutrition and may inform where the food comes from. A claim such as “Indonesian grown’ or ‘product of’ can help users or consumers to identity their local foods. Therefore, they believe the foods provided in the formal meetings are made completely from local ingredient.
A response to a question “is local food good for health?”, we can refer to a research conducted by Arsil et al. (2014). They reported that ‘cheap price’ and ‘good health’ are two reasons why Indonesian consumers buy their local foods (see: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/BFJ-04-2013-0083). Local foods is believed to be cheaper as less intermediate traders due to short transportation. Local foods also taste and look better as they are consumed soon after harvested. Local foods are more nutritious because less nutrition losses are due to less time passing from farm to consumer. There are many different kinds of local foods ranging from fruits and vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy, so we can avoid high carbohydrate foods by eating variety of foods.
To conclude, the policy with regard to serving traditional foods that are based on local foods at formal meetings is believed having a positive correlation to increase Indonesian awareness to consume more local foods.
Dr. Poppy Arsil is a lecturer and researcher at the Department of Agricultural Technology at the Jenderal Soedirman University, Central Java, Indonesia.The opinion expressed here is her own.