Indonesia, Malaysia to Unite on Food Audit
Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Indonesian and Malaysian government auditors plan to conduct parallel food security audits next year, a member of the archipelago’s Supreme Audit Agency said on Tuesday.
The BPK and its Malaysian counterpart, the State Audit Office (JAN), have agreed to hold technical meetings in Malaysia next year to conduct the audits on food security, BPK member Ali Masykur Musa said after an exchange between the two institutions in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, on Tuesday.
The two earlier held a technical meeting for a parallel audit of the maritime and fishery sector.
“We agreed that after the audit on the maritime and fishery sector, next year we will audit food security. Why are we doing it with Malaysia? Because our staple foods are the same — rice and cassava,” Ali said.
He added that since the government has a role to play in achieving food security, the audit will assess policies and trade in food.
Ali said the joint audit was important because the world faces a food crisis, with some food-supplying countries grappling with weather anomalies that disrupt output.
Indonesia, he said, is dealing with a scarcity of tofu and tempeh, as world supplies of soybean dwindle. “And that is just for tofu and tempeh, which are not yet essential foods. If there is a shortage of rice, which is a staple food, then rice will hold the same position as oil and fuel. Rice is a commodity that is linked to security and war,” Ali said, adding that the commodity will spark competition.
“We do not want people to enter into conflict only because they are in dispute over rice. We do not want that in our life, and therefore we will begin to enter that territory next year,” Ali added.
He said that unlike in some neighboring countries, where the government shares the risks in rice growing, food trading in Indonesia has been liberalized, meaning supply is now dominated by the private sector, causing prices to rise.
“Therefore the state should manage the upstream sector, via Bulog,” he said referring the state logistics agency.
He said that downstream, the Agriculture Ministry should guarantee food supply, and the state land registry should provide planting land.
“If 27,000 hectares of productive land is converted for industries, then there should be a move to replace those agricultural lands,” Ali said.
JAN deputy general Dato’ Haji Anwari bin Suri said that his institution agreed with BKN on food security.
However, Malaysia has already conducted an audit of food security and the result is scheduled to be presented to the Malaysian parliament later this year.
“We want and are ready to share our experience with Indonesia,” Anwari said.
He said that both countries needed to seek innovative ways to assure food resilience.
On Monday, Ali said the BPK was planning to audit the fishery and maritime sector, because the sector had never been audited despite being a large potential source of revenue for the state.
Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and a coastline of more than 80,570 kilometers, but fisher sector exports reached a comparatively miserly $3.34 billion in 2011.
The maritime audit will investigate suspicious behaviors that are potentially depriving the state of revenue.