RI needs long-term solution to food problem

"The government should think of a long-term solution to increasing food production at home," Siswono said.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia needs a long-term solution to achieving self-sufficiency in food and increasing agricultural products to meet the people`s domestic need, legislator Siswono Yudohusodo said.

"The government should think of a long-term solution to increasing food production at home," Siswono, who is a member of the House of Representatives (DPR)`s Commission IV on agricultural affairs, said here on Tuesday.

He said that the long-term solution could among others be made by opening up new and extensive agricultural areas, particularly outside Java.

The legislator said that efforts to import food to overcome food scarcity was only a short-term solution.

"The change in the function of agricultural land is becoming more and more concerning. That is the cause of our agricultural product to decline while demand for the commodity continues to increase, and as a result the market mechanism comes into force," he said.

The problem, he said, also causes the self-sufficiency in food target in Indonesia is difficult to achieve. "Indonesia is more and more becoming dependent with regard to food. One can imagine, Indonesia imports almost all kinds of needed foods," he added.

He said Indonesia still imported about one million tons of rice every year, sugar 1.5 million, soybean 1.7 tons, beef 80,000 tons, not to mention different kinds of fruit.

"We are still importing salt, even almost half of national need," he said.

Therefore, he called on the government to develop a long-term solution through the opening up of more agricultural land.

In the meantime, a chamber official said recently that the food polices applied by the government to meet national needs were speculative in nature as shown by the fact that supply and demand remain imbalanced, causing prices to also remain high.

"Supply is low while demand is high. This condition is prone to speculation," Natsir Mansur, deputy chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) for regional empowerment and logistics affairs, said.

He said the minister of trade and the minister of agriculture were still unable to handle the most basic problems of food such as production, distribution and trade.

"The ministers have already known the basic problems that always come every year such the problem of sugar, beef, chicken, garlic, soy, chilli, horticultural products, yet they still issue speculative polices as indicated in the prices which still remain high and food commodity supplies which remain low," said Natsir.

The Kadin deputy chairman said that the two ministers still did not understand the importance of a food policy of a nation. He said that the logistics management in this country did not take side with the people so that their polices were still chaos.

Natsir said that Commission VI of the House of Representatives (DPR) actually had a strategic role in national food policy. But the role is helpless because the DPR control over the supply and demand for food is very weak. The DPR does not either use its budgetary right.

"The DPR should have taken sanctions against the two ministries by reducing their budget because they are not able to control food production, distribution and trade that cause the people to suffer from the shortage of supplies and high prices," said Natsir.

Ahead, the regional governments should be given the authority to issue food policies because they know their own respective needs for food. The food matters are handled too much by the two ministries, he said.(*)

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