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Sat, 08/23/2008 - 20:59
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Jakarta, Aug 23 (ANTARA) - Indonesia, which boasted about its rice self-efficiency at a FAO conference in Rome in 1985, is determined to maintain the self-efficiency in rice it has regained after years of importing the commodity.

"We estimate that the country's rice production this year will exceed national consumption. We have to maintain the rice self-sufficiency by maintaining increased national rice production," President Susilo Bambang Yudohono told a plenary meeting of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) here on Friday.

The Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) reported production in 2008 is estimated at 59.88 million tons of dry unhusked rice or equivalent to about 34 million tons of rice.

With a population of 227.78 million, the national rice production level would surpass national need estimated at 31.68 million tons a year.

Last year, Indonesia's dry unhusked rice output rose by 4.98 percent or 2.70 million tons from 2006, enabling the country to enjoy a surplus of 1.5 million tons,President Yudhoyono said that in order to maintain rice self-sufficiency, each region in the country must significantly raise its production level. To this end, the government would provide the needed facilities such as seeds, fertilizer and improve agricultural infrastructure facilities in the regions.

In the meantime, DPD chairman Ginandjar Kartasasmita said the DPD was delighted to hear that Indonesia had regained self-sufficiency in food, in rice in particular. He said it was a great achievement by the government.

Food security is as crucial to Indonesia as energy security. In addition to energy security, food security is an important problem in Indonesia with its big population, Kartasasmita said.

Yet, to maintain the food self sufficiency, the government should stay alert, he said because there were many factors that could influence agricultural production.

In addition to climate and weather conditions as well as the threat of plant diseases or pests, the availability of production facilities and a smooth distribution system were also determining factors. For example, he said, the DPD had received reports from several regions such as North Sumatra about shortages of fertilizer.

"Above all, what poses as a challenge to us is how to guarantee the welfare and the buying power of farmers and fishermen who should now be enjoying the benefits of the high prices of agricultural products in the world," he said.

For this reason, President Yudhoyono explained that each time he was visiting a region he would always ask a report from the governor, mayor and district head about the progress and problems their regions were facing in food production.

Yudhyono admitted that enough national food stock was only one of the factors that affected prices of food. "The smoothness of goods distribution is also a factor that could affect price stability," he added.

Regional governments therefore need to support the central government's efforts to improve the distribution and flow of goods. This is intended to reduce additional burdens in the distribution of goods.

The president also called on regions to anticipate food price hikes by increasing stocks of the staple. "All regions must discard their egoistic attitudes that hamper the flow and distribution of necessary goods for the people. Barriers hampering the flow of goods must be removed because it will drive up prices and inflation rates," the president said.

The president's remarks indicated the important role the regions were playing in building the country's self-efficiency in food. Regions have extensive and potential areas for the development of agriculture.

Therefore, agricultural and plantation development will not be carried out in Java only but also in other island . According to Agriculture Minister Anton Apriantono, if the self-sufficiency is to be maintained, agricultural development must not be done in Java only but also in other islands.

"Oil palm plantations can be opened in many regions other than where they are now located," the minister said on Friday.

Development of rice and oil palm plantations would be carried out in regions which are most suitable such as Marauke in Papua, he said.

"But the central government will only facilitate development of agriculture in the regions. The initiaive must be taken by the regional administrations concerned," Apriiantono added.

Indonesia has several food crop varieties such as maize and soybean that could be developed to strengthen national food resilience.

"Our food resilience is high. We have various food varieties which are carbohydrate sources that can replace rice if the country runs low on the staple," Hasanuddin Ibrahim of the Ministry of Agriculture said recently.

Besides, the government had also stated its determination to taise Indonesia's soybean production to more than 1.3 million tons in 2008 in order to reduce dependence on imports.

Agriculture Minister Anton Apriantono said the government would have to enhance the country's self-sufficiency in soybean from 2015 to 2011 with a production of one to 1.3 million tons.

To maintain self-sufficiency in food, he added, the government had allocated Rp1 trillion, which included Rp600 billion for soybean cultivation.