Fruit growers say they are opposed to the Agriculture Ministry’s plan to introduce new rules next month to control the quality of fresh agricultural produce, arguing the move is unrealistic given current conditions in Indonesia’s agribusiness sector.
The Good Agriculture Practices are based on guidelines issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization, an agency of the United Nations, and apply to on-farm production and subsequent processing. They are designed to ensure safe and healthy food and non-food agricultural products, control the use of chemicals and fertilizer and also take into account economic, social and environmental issues.
Ahmad Dimyati, the Agriculture Ministry’s director general of horticulture, said the rules would come into effect on Nov. 19, and would apply to both exports and imports of fresh produce.
“We need more time to improve our technological, storage and distribution capabilities before starting to fully implement GAPs this year,” Rudi Senjaya, a director of agribusiness firm PT Buana Agro Sukses Makmur, said on Wednesday.
“Our fruit suppliers in the United States, Australia and Thailand are also asking for more time to prepare for the introduction of the rules,” Rudi said.
He said that full compliance with GAP requirements would be costly as significant upgrades in agricultural and fruit-handling technology would be required.
“We also face problems as around 90 percent of our agribusiness concerns consist of small- and medium-scale firms working on relatively small farms,” Rudi said.
Separately, Thomas Darmawan, chairman of the Food and Beverage Producers Association (Gapmmi), said on Wednesday that the GAP system was not appropriate for a tropical country like Indonesia.
“Unlike in subtropical and temperate countries, our farmers need to use pesticides to ensure good harvests. Our fruits are mostly tough-skinned, such as bananas, mangoes and snake fruit, unlike those at which the rules are primarily aimed, such as apples and grapes from the European Union or the United States,” said Thomas, who is also a member of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (Kadin) agribusiness committee.
“We object to any additional requirements in the sector that will increase costs. These new rules will increase costs by forcing us to hire surveyor companies and pay for laboratory testing of fruit exports and imports.”
He also said that he hoped the introduction of the GAP requirements would not affect supplies of imported fruit to the food and beverage industry.
Ahmad said Indonesia had imported 310,275 tons of fruit valued at $246.2 million in 2007, but only exported 26,744 tons of fruit worth $14.6 million. He added that figures for 2008 were as yet unavailable.
A total of 2,421 fruit farms are currently registered with the Agriculture Ministry.