Observing The Effectiveness of Indonesia’s Food Estate Program

Food security is again a public concern and discussion, this is related to the post-COVID-19 situation. The discussion was motivated by the disruption of the domestic food supply chain and food production processes due to the mobility restrictions plus the number of layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic. An increase in the unemployment rate has the potential to reduce purchasing power and increase food and nutrition insecurity. The World Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned of this, including highlighting the disruption in food availability due to panic buying behavior in Indonesia.

The Indonesian government responded to this by making efforts to maintain the country’s food security, one of which is the Food Estate program. The development of a Food Estate or Food Production Center Area (KSPP) is also an implementation strategy of National Priority 1: Strengthening Economic Resilience for Quality and Equitable Growth in the National Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMN) 2020-2024. In accordance with the direction of the President of the Republic of Indonesia Joko Widodo, the initial locations for Food Estate development are directed at five locations, in Central Kalimantan, North Sumatra, South Sumatra, East Nusa Tenggara, and Papua. Food Estate is directed to support and strengthen the achievement of development targets, especially strengthening the government’s rice reserves to 1-1.5 million tons of rice, increasing food production by three percent per year and agricultural productivity, increasing rice availability to 46.8 million tons in 2024, Target Farmer Exchange Rate 103-105, and avoid land degradation or damage.

The budget allocation for food security so far is quite large. In 2018 the food security budget was allocated for IDR89.5 trillion, increasing to IDR104.2 trillion in the 2021 State Revenue and Expenditure Budget Plan (RAPBN). However, the high budget allocation for food security does not seem to be effective in maintaining national food security. According to Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) data, there has been a decline in rice production and rice harvested area in Indonesia in 2018-2019. The data shows that the rice harvested area in 2018 was 11.3 million hectares, decreasing to 10.6 million hectares in 2019. This certainly has an impact on the amount of rice production where in 2018 rice production reached 59.2 million tons, down to 54.6 million tons in 2019.

Along with the Food Estate program run by the government of the Republic of Indonesia, the 2021 Global Food Security Index (GFSI) has just been released in September 2021. Of 113 countries, Indonesia’s overall food security level is ranked 69th with a score of 59.2 points. Previously, Indonesia’s position was ranked 65 (2020), 62 (2019), 65 (2018), and 69 (2017). In 2021, other ASEAN countries that are ahead of Indonesia include the Philippines (64th), Vietnam (61st rank), Thailand (51st), Malaysia (39th), and Singapore (15th). Ireland is at the top of the rankings.

Indonesia’s best achievement is found in the availability category, which is ranked 37th, this achievement is down from 2020, which is in the 34th position. In this category, the indicators considered include adequacy of food stocks, agricultural infrastructure, volatility of agricultural products.

Meanwhile, Indonesia was ranked 54th in the affordability category, up one place from the previous year. This value includes indicators of average food prices, the proportion of people living below the poverty line, and access to markets and agricultural financial services.

In the food quality and safety category, Indonesia was ranked 95th, down from the previous year, which was ranked 89th. The indicators used include dietary diversity, nutritional standards, micronutrient availability, protein quality, and food safety.

In the category of natural resources and resilience, Indonesia got the lowest ranking, which was ranked 113, from the previous year’s ranking of 109. Food security in Indonesia is considered very vulnerable if the agricultural sector is affected by climate change (rise in air temperature and sea level, drought, flood, storm). In addition, food vulnerability is also influenced by indicators of water quality and reserves, land degradation, and the government’s disaster mitigation strategy.

Summarizing Indonesia’s achievements in the 2021 GFSI, it is undeniable that Indonesia is quite successful with the availability of its food supplies. This means that the national food strategy and agricultural sector are considered to have sufficient capacity to provide food supplies for 270 million people. However, the availability of food has not been accompanied by affordability, because it may still be hampered by food prices and the poverty rate, which is reported to have increased to 10.19 percent by the end of 2020. At the same time, even though food stocks are adequate, their quality and safety are relatively low. Indonesia’s food supply is also considered very vulnerable due to natural disasters and the impact of climate change.

If we look at the Food Estate program run by the government which aims to increase food security through increased production, actually this program does not have a significant impact on increasing Indonesia’s GFSI. The reason is, the most serious problem faced by Indonesia is in the category of natural resource management and resilience, where Indonesia is considered the most backward country in terms of the vulnerability of the agricultural sector in facing climate change.

The food estate program also does not solve another problem, especially about affordability. The priority thing that needs to be done by the Indonesian government is to increase access to funding and financial products for farmers so that farming families can live more prosperously.

Lastly, the food estate program also does not address the issue of food diversity, it is the portion size of non-starchy foods (all foods other than cereals, roots and tubers) in total food energy consumption. Indonesia’s position is 31.9% below the world average, which is only 16.4%. The reason is that the food estate program that is being carried out is still focused on the rice field printing program to produce rice, while local food sources are not being implemented optimally.

Behind the government’s efforts to increase national food production, such a self-sufficiency strategy is actually not the same as food security. As emphasized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in a report entitled “At a Glance Food Insecurity in Asia: Why Institutions Matter”, pursuing high self-sufficiency is a way to achieve better food security. In addition to self-sufficiency, ADB highlighted the importance of improving the quality of government and making better economic policies in Indonesia in order to achieve high food security. ADB cited Japan and South Korea as an example. Although the two countries have low self-sufficiency, the distribution of economic wealth there is higher and more equitable so they can have good food security.

Mogi Bian Darmawan
Mogi Bian Darmawan
Mogi Bian Darmawan is currently a student of the ASEAN Master in Sustainability Management, joint program from Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia and University of Agder, Norway. He has been involved in sustainability projects in several industries, from agriculture, retail, and civil society organizations for years. He has a strong interest in sustainable agriculture and community empowerment.