Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia needs to develop its dams and irrigation to overcome desolation during droughts so that the country`s 7.5 million hectares of rice fields could be maximized to support the government`s food resilience program.

"The drying up of agricultural lands occurring now is caused not only by drought but also by the government`s low concern about development of agricultural infrastructures," Rofi Munawar, a member of House Commission IV on agricultural affairs, said here on Thursday.

The water crises and extensive rice fields affected by the dry spell in the current drought which reached 95,891 hectares are partly blamed on the government which the legislator said was lacking seriousness in developing agricultural in restructures.

"Scant government attention to development of agricultural infrastructures has contributed to the desolation of farm lands in many regions," Rofi Munawar said.

As reported earlier, West Java, one of the country`s rice producing provinces, has during the past few weeks been experiencing a severe drought which has affected 37,000 hectares of rice fields.

Of the acreage, 13,000 hectares failed to produce a harvest. Thousands of hectares of farm land have remained idle and uncultivated during the drought due to water crises.

"The availability of water is a deciding factor in the rice production so that the need for food could be met. At present, more than 20 percent of the country`s irrigation systems have been damaged which could disturb efforts to increase food production," he said.

Rofi also questioned the government`s target to have 10 million tons of rice production surplus in 2015 because until August this year the acreage of rice farms that had been affected by drought had reached 95,891 hectares. This size is almost equal to that affected by drought the whole year in 2010 which stood at 96,721 hectares.

"There is an upward trend in the acreage of affected rice fields and this threatens the efforts to achieve the target to produce 10 million tons of rice surplus in 2015," he said.

The legislator said the government had also ignored the development of new dams so that extensive rice fields continued to face harvest failures during the drought every year.

"This is because investment in the agricultural infrastructure has tended to be ignored since the reform era so that the agricultural sector is undergoing stagnation," he said.

According to Rofi who is a politician of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Indonesia now only has some 284 large reservoirs with a capacity of irrigating only 800 thousand hectares of rice fields, or only about 11 percent of the country`s 7.5 million hectares of technical irrigation farms.

The roles of dams are vitally important for agriculture, particularly during the planting season, he said. Thus, the government should clearly map out the strength of the country`s irrigation networks.

The central government should ask provincial governments to also map out farmlands in the regions which had technical, semi-technical and simple irrigation systems as well as rain-fed farming.

"Thereby, the government would have a clear picture for the availability of water for agricultural lands and would be able to take anticipatory steps in the face of a drought," he said.

As regards to concerns that the drought could threaten the government`s target to produce ten million tons of rice surplus, the agriculture ministry has proposed an additional food security fund of Rp3 trillion to help achieve the rice production surplus target.

"The proposal came from the Agriculture Minister. To increase rice production I think the proposal for additional fund is acceptable," Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa said after attending a coordination meeting on food affairs at the Agriculture Ministry here recently.

The extra budget fund was badly needed to achieve the rice surplus target, the more so because budget allocations for food security this year fell short of need, he said. In 2011, the government allocated Rp3 trillion in emergency fund for food security.

Virtually, Indonesia with its extensive land areas is a country which can come up as a major food producing country in the world.

"I say that this country has good food prospects. The world population will continue to increase so that the need for standard food and energy will be big, and at the same time food and energy security will be facing a global challenge," the President said when visiting a Livestock Research Center at the Livestock Training Center in Ciawi, Bogor, last month.

In the 2012 draft state budget, the funds for agricultural infrastructure development were included in the budget for the development of the country?s infrastructures as a whole, whose values totaled Rp168.1 trillion.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the government had set Rp168.1 trillion capital expenditure in the 2012 Draft State Budget for the development of infrastructure, including energy, food resilience and communications infrastructure.

"We design the increase in the capital expenditure for supporting infrastructure development, including energy, food resilience and communications infrastructure," the President said in his state of the nation address last month.(*)

Reporter: Andi Abdussalam
Editor: Aditia Maruli Radja
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