Farmers choose to grow crops that will benefit them."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government is encouraging farmers in various regions in the country to increase soybean production in an attempt to reduce import of the commodity, which could reach 1.8 million tonnes per annum.

For this purpose, the Ministry of Agriculture hopes that the country`s soybean production centers such as Central Lombok and Bisma districts in West Nusa Tenggara Province will consistently maintain and increase their soybean production.

Minister for Agriculture expressed his hope when he attended a soybean grand harvest in Sukarara Village, Jonggat Subdistrict, Central Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) on Sunday.

NTB is keen to maintain itself as one of the country`s soybean production centers. If the province is able to produce up to one million tonnes of soybean every year, it would be helpful in reducing the import of the commodity.

"The Ministry of Agriculture challenged NTB to maintain its status as a national soybean production center, urging it to prove its production capacity of one million tonnes by 2014," said spokesperson for the NTB Regional Government Tri Budi Prayitno in NTB Provincial Capital Mataram on Sunday.

Agriculture Minister Suswono, accompanied by Food Crop Director General at the Ministry of Agriculture Undoro Kasih, NTB Governor TGH M Zainul Majidi and other relevant officials, attended the soybean grand harvest, which covered an area of 70 thousand hectares in the province.

On the sidelines of the harvest, Minister Suswono said the country`s need for soybean has reached 2.5 million tonnes per annum but its domestic production is only about 700 thousands and 800 thousand tonnes a year.

So, the country is in need of some 1.7 million to 1.8 million tonnes, forcing it to import the commodity to meet its domestic demand.

Therefore, the minister encouraged various regions to increase their soybean production in an effort to reduce import.

"If NTB, as one of the country`s regions expected to serve as a national soybean production center, can produce up to one million tonnes per annum, the central government will provide significant funds to the region," said the minister.

Indonesia produced 1.6 million tonnes of soybean in 1992. The figure declined steadily in the following years, and today, Indonesia produces only 800 thousand tons of soybeans in a year.

"Farmers choose to grow crops that will benefit them. They have turned to sugarcane, rice, and maize. Soybean is the last choice," the minister explained.

Agriculture Minister Suswono said the government is forced to import soybean because of the lack of interest from local farmers in cultivating soybean.

In many places, he said, soybean was alternated with other crops before farmers started replacing it with onions, which promised better yields.

To encourage farmers to cultivate soybean again, the price of soybean must be stabilized and the acreage of plantations for soybean must be expanded, the minister said.

Otherwise, he added that the production of other crops such as maize will be negatively affected.

"Now, with the price of soybean being high, farmers are being encouraged. Several regions have begun developing plantations. Farmers in Aceh Province have developed 50 thousand hectares and those in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) have developed 30 thousand hectares," the minister pointed out.

In the meantime, Bali is also planning to open seven thousand hectares of soybean plantations this year.

Sadly, only 57 percent of the plan is complete - only four thousand hectares have been opened so far, according to Bali`s agricultural service chief Ida Bagus Wisnuardana. He, however, is optimistic that the target could be reached in the remaining months of the year.

In the past three years, soybean plantations in the province have shrunk from nine thousand hectares to seven thousand hectares on seasonal factor, resulting in the decline in production.

According to an expert, Indonesia should increase the acreage of its farmlands to meet its domestic demand.

"Indonesia needs at least two million hectares of farmlands to meet the domestic demand for soybean," explained Didik Indradewa of Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University.

Soybean must compete with other crops such as corn because of shrinking farmlands, he said. "Today, we see a decline in the production of domestic soybean because it cannot compete with imported soybean and other crops," he added.

Minister Suswono concurred with Indradewa, saying that at least 500 thousand hectares would be needed.

"We need to expand the acreage of soybean plantation by at least 500 thousand hectares. The total area for soybean cultivation has not increased in a long time," Minister Suswono said.

He noted that Indonesia was self-sufficient in soybean in 1992 when 1.6 million hectares in the country`s farmlands were used for soybean cultivation. Back then, Suswono continued, Indonesian farmers preferred to cultivate soybean because it was a more profitable commodity - priced 1.5 times higher than rice.

Therefore, the Indonesian Farmers Union (SPI) has urged the government to set the government purchase price (HPP) of local soybean at Rp8,500 a kg as part of its efforts to stabilize the prices.

"The government must set a new purchase price since the present price of Rp7,000 a kg is not beneficial," said Achmad Yakub, SPI chairman of national strategic studies.

The soybean production cost rose to Rp6.5 million per hectare, from Rp5.6 million per hectare, after the government raised the prices of subsidized fuel oils last June, he added.

"We want the government to raise the purchase price to Rp8,500 a kg so that soybean farmers can reap sufficient profits," he noted.

According to farmers in NTB, the average soybean production per hectare of NTB`s plantations reaches 1.2-1.4 tonnes.

Head of NTB`s Food Crop and Agriculture Service Husni Fahri said state-owned logistics board Bulog would buy farmers` soybean at a government`s sanctioned price of Rp7,000 per kg.

Minister Suswono said to encourage farmers, beneficial margin calculated out of the production cost must be fixed.

"If the production cost per kilogram of soybean is Rp6,500, the margin for the farmers should be considered. Supposing the farmers are given a 30 percent margin, the price will then be approximately Rp8,500 per kg. Then, farmers will surely be encouraged to cultivate soybean," the minister explained.

Reporter: Andi Abdussalam
Editor: Priyambodo RH
Copyright © ANTARA 2013