Editorial: Indonesia Could Be Agricultural Center
Food security has been a major concern for governments around the world for many years now. Fast-growing populations, especially in emerging economies, are expected to put increasing pressure on global food supplies.
Unseasonably hot weather in the United States is causing prices of wheat and soybeans to soar, and agricultural experts say that it might cause a ripple effect on global food markets and threaten Indonesia’s food security.
Indonesians do not consume wheat in large quantities, but soybeans are a staple in many lower-income households. This year, Indonesia has imported 1.22 million metric tons of soybeans, making it the fourth-biggest US export market. It also took in 465,519 tons of wheat, according to US data.
Global warming and its side effects are likely to continue to impact food production, creating periodic shortages. Last year, floods in Thailand destroyed large areas of rice cultivation, forcing the country to restrict rice exports. Indonesia saw domestic rice prices spike significantly as a result.
The government has pursued a policy of being self-sufficient in food, but its goals have not been met. Java, the country’s main rice-producing center, has limited land for agriculture, so new areas such as Papua have been earmarked for production.
With adequate rainfall throughout the year, fertile soil and a tropical climate, Indonesia is capable of not just feeding its own people but being a major exporter of food grains. This will require significant investment in research and development as well as irrigation to develop new breeds of grain and to open up new areas for cultivation.
With ample land available, there is no reason why Indonesia cannot become a major exporter of food, especially rice and other staples. The government must go all-out to promote agriculture and develop policies that will help export more food.