Jakarta (ANTARA) - Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian called on regional heads in Indonesia to put underutilized agricultural lands to productive use in a bid to increase food availability for realizing food self-sufficiency.

"We ask all regions to turn unproductive unused lands into agricultural lands," he remarked after attending the Coordination Meeting on Planting Area Expansion and the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the agriculture minister here on Friday.

According to Karnavian, the utilization of unused lands can effectively boost food production locally, thereby aiding in reducing dependence on food imports and driving the country's food independence.

Apart from advocating for the utilization of unused sites into productive agricultural lands, Karnavian also reminded all regional governments not to convert agricultural lands into business areas.

Karnavian noted that in future, his ministry would prepare a circular that would be addressed to all regional heads in Indonesia.

Furthermore, the ministry will form a special team to evaluate the circular to determine regions that have complied with it and those that have not.

He highlighted that the central government will give rewards to regional heads who succeed in carrying out this task well, while cautioning that punishment will be imposed on those failing to fulfill this task optimally.

Agriculture Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman stated that land optimization and water pumping are the right steps, as they have been proven to be solutions for Indonesia to realize food self-sufficiency and to become the world's food estate.

He noted that the agriculture sector must receive attention, considering that Indonesia will face extreme climate, including long drought, in the future.

The minister expressed hope that collaboration between the central and regional governments would become stronger as a key to achieving food self-sufficiency.

Sulaiman noted that his ministry had issued short-term policies towards realizing food self-sufficiency, such as optimizing 400 thousand hectares of swamp land, pumping water to one million hectares of rice fields, and transforming 250 thousand hectares of traditional agriculture lands into modern agriculture lands.

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Translator: Muhammad Harianto, Raka Adji
Editor: Azis Kurmala
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