The Ministry of Agriculture has had to push back its target of reaching national soybean self-sufficiency three years - from 2011 to 2014 - because low yields and fluctuating prices for the crop have continued to hamper local production.
Indonesiaâ€™s tofu and tempeh industries consume at least 2 million tons of soybeans annually, but in 2008 domestic farmers were only able to produce 760,000 tons.
â€śFor 2014, we have set a production target of 2.2 million tons of soybeans,â€ť Sutarto Alimoeso, the ministryâ€™s director general for crop estates, said in an interview on Monday, adding that the governmentâ€™s 2009 production target would be 1.5 million tons.
At present, Sutarto said, relatively low per hectare yields and high price volatility made it difficult for the country to achieve self-sufficiency.
To address these problems, the government plans to improve the quality of soy seeds and open up more land for soy farming.
Nationwide, soy yields currently average only about 1.3 tons per hectare, but Sutarto said reaching the self-sufficiency target would require a minimum yield of two tons per hectare.
Rizal Syarif, chairman of the Indonesian Tempeh Forum, or FTI, said that farmers were not eager to plant soy because of its historically low or highly changeable prices.
â€śPreviously, the price of domestic soybeans was always below Rp 5,500 [47 cents] a kilogram, which is a fair price for soy,â€ť Rizal said.
Further, Indonesian farmers often only plant soy as a secondary crop, meaning it is planted either along with rice or between the rice harvest and the next planting season. This approach, in turn, creates an unpredictable harvest schedule for soybeans, which is unappealing for industrial processors and leads them to import soy instead.
Rizal urged the government to better manage soybean trading to make sure soybean farmers are able to link up with buyers at harvest time.
â€śThat could be done by having the State Logistics Agency [or Bulog] buy farmersâ€™ soybeans, or by some other way,â€ť he said.
The ministryâ€™s Sutarto said the government would review the farmersâ€™ concerns regarding soy pricing.