Amran Sulaiman, Minister of Agriculture: Interview

Amran Sulaiman, Minister of Agriculture

Interview: Amran Sulaiman

What policy measures are needed to further improve the welfare of farmers in Indonesia?

AMRAN SULAIMAN: Farmers have always been the driving force of Indonesia’s agricultural sector. Aside from the support we have provided in terms of innovation and modernisation, we have also made improvements to value chain management. This has generated value, made our products more competitive and, most importantly, improved farmers’ incomes and overall welfare. Furthermore, in order to create a better business environment for farmers, we also launched an insurance scheme for crop and livestock protection against flood, drought, pests and diseases, and natural disasters. Approximately 1.2m ha of farm land and 200,000 head of cattle are currently covered by the scheme.

How effective have recent efforts to improve agricultural infrastructure been, and what are other priorities for the future progression of the industry?

SULAIMAN: The priorities of the Ministry of Agriculture include maintaining the progress we have made thus far, alongside additional developments that directly benefit farmers and people living in remote areas of the country. These include poverty alleviation, investment in training, and the revitalisation of swamp areas so they can be used for agriculture. In terms of infrastructure, the implementation of a new irrigation system is ongoing and in 2018 we not only achieved the target of building 202,000 ha of long storage and rainwater harvesting systems, but also built 200,000 ha of reservoir channels. Moreover, shallow and deep wells now cover over 20,000 ha of land. Lastly, river water resources and piping systems were extended to 3.5m ha, and tertiary irrigation systems to 3.4m ha.

To what extent has Indonesia achieved self-sufficiency in rice production?

SULAIMAN: In 2017 the production of rice increased dramatically, by 10.5m tonnes of ready-to-mill grain with a value equivalent to $3.2bn. This escalation in production was also recorded in 43 agricultural commodities, including maize, shallots and chilli, with a total value of approximately $27bn.

Although vast swathes of agricultural land were destroyed during the El Niño weather event, we still managed to maintain the domestic supply of several strategic food commodities, and moreover exported 4000 tonnes of special rice and 7700 tonnes of shallots. This increase was made possible by the introduction of a range of machinery that gave rise to numerous economic benefits, among them a 68% reduction in manual labour, a 10% reduction in harvest losses and a 30% reduction in production costs, all of which together equated to a total saving of around $1.96bn.

How would you gauge the success of the 2011 Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil programme in terms of instituting sustainable agricultural practices?

SULAIMAN: The palm oil industry makes a substantial contribution to the economy. In 2016 the sector supplied around 12.5% of the country’s total export earnings and employed 16.4m labourers, of which 4.4m were directly employed and 12m indirectly. There are around 2.1m households that make a living out of crude palm oil (CPO). Assuming that each household has on average four members, the CPO sector has provided a living for around 8.4m people. The promotion of sustainability principles as part of Indonesia’s national development has thus been prioritised.

The B10 scheme was established as part of efforts to relieve pressures brought about by increased market restrictions in several major CPO-importing countries. This mandates that 10% of the components needed for gasoline are to be derived from CPO. Meanwhile, a new B20 programme states that diesel should be comprised of 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel. It has been running successfully since its launch in late 2018 and is expected to absorb around 7m tonnes of CPO.

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The Report: Indonesia 2019

Agriculture chapter from The Report: Indonesia 2019

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