Agricultural trade surplus US$20 billion

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Minister of Agriculture Suswono reported that agricultural sector has contributed surplus for the national trade balance amounting to US$17-20 billion derived from subsectors, such as oil palm plantations, cocoa, coffee, and rubber.

The minister explained that the real contribution of the agricultural sector in the provision of food can be seen from the performance of the production of strategic food commodities in the last four years.

Rice production has increased an average of 2.6 percent per year from 64.4 million tons of milled rice (paddy) in 2009 to 71.29 million tons in 2013, he noted.

Corn production has also increased by an average of 1.39 percent per year from 17.63 million tons of dry shells in 2009 to 18.51 million tons in 2013.

Meanwhile, soybean production has increased by 1.39 percent per year per hectare, although the production of soybean has decreased due to competition with corn plantation areas.

According to the minister, the situation has caused the soybean-harvested areas to fall to an average of 6.54 percent per year.

The production of sugarcane, however, has increased by an average of 1.48 percent from 17.22 million tons in 2009 to 19.67 million tons in 2013.

"Beef production has also increased by an average of 7.49 percent per year," Suswono said.

Nevertheless, the minister recognized the persistence of various issues in agriculture, such as land areas and quality degradation, narrowing area of land ownership by farmers, as well as climate change.

He expressed hope that the new government will have the political will to solve the issues facing agricultural sector.