Mon, 31 Mar 2008
The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) held its first-ever National Food Coordination meeting on Saturday, aiming to formulate recommendations for the government to improve food security amid rising global food prices.

"The government must place food sustainability on top of its priority list, higher than the need to pursue energy availability or to improve the quality of infrastructure," Kadin chairman Mohammad Hidayat said.

He said the country's food security policies must be able to meet the demands of the entire population, which grows on average by 1.5 percent every year, and to resist the influence of global food price inflation.

"Biofuel manufacturers have required a very large amount of food resulting in a massive decrease in food supply and higher international food commodity prices," Hidayat said.

Hidayat said the meeting was aimed at centering perception on the importance of food sustainability as well as advising the government on several issues, including how to improve food production and distribution.

Citingresearch by the Food and Agriculture Organization, Wheat Flour Producers Association chairman Franciscus Welirang said during the meeting that global food prices were likely to increase further.

He said the price of flour had risen 20 percent, or from about US$500 to $600 per ton, in the middle of the month despite a decrease in the price of wheat in February.

"Almost all flour producing countries have implemented various types of fiscal policies to limit exports," Franky said.

The solution to the problem, he said, is to increase production capacity "through food diversification".

He said flour producers must develop other sources of raw materials as production composite.

Commenting on the challenges for Indonesia to attain food security, Muhammad Chatib Basri from the Institute for Economic and Social Research at the University of Indonesia said the main problem lay in the low productivity of Indonesia's agriculture sector.

"It has worsened because the government always considers trade-related methods the best way to solve the problem, rather than repairing the factors that can improve the productivity of Indonesia's agriculture sector," he told The Jakarta Post.

He said an example was the government's tendency to ban rice imports whenever the price of domestic rice improved, rather than improving national rice production.

"To overcome farmers' low productivity, the government should make several structural improvements, including to agricultural technology and infrastructure, expanding irrigation systems and developing more productive rice strains.

"Protecting farmers is one thing, improving productivity is quite another," he said. (uwi)



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