Thu, 12 Aug 2010

From: The Jakarta Globe

By Arti Ekawati
Indonesia. Indonesia on Wednesday launched a giant project to create a $5 billion agricultural estate spanning three districts in Papua.

The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate program is the latest attempt by the government to gain self-sufficiency in food production, with a longer-term goal of someday becoming a food-exporting nation.

At a ceremony held in Merauke district on Wednesday, Agriculture Minister Suswono said he expected that the area would become the nation’s bread basket.

‚ÄúMerauke needs support from all stake holders to become the center for food crop production and renewable energy in the eastern part of the country,‚ÄĚ Suswono said.

A number of local investors are currently developing large-scale farms in Merauke, including the Medco Group, the Artha Graha Group and Sinar Mas Group.

According to documents from the Agriculture Ministry, there will be four areas developed between 2010 and 2014 in Merauke and the surrounding areas of Semangga, Sota and Tanah Miring.

Slated to cover about 480,000 hectares, the project is expected to yield a number of agricultural products, such as rice, corn, nuts, fish and cattle.

Speaking about the potential harvests the land could offer, Suswono said he expects the area to produce enormous annual output, including almost two million tons of rice, two million tons of corn and 167,000 tons of soybeans.

He added that the area would also provide grazing for 64,000 cattle.

He said the state could also yield 2.5 million tons of sugar and 937,000 tons of palm oil per year.

The government initially calculated the project would require as much as 1.28 million hectares of land, but after a review by the central government found that large amounts of the land surveyed belonged to indigenous people or was classified as peat land, the estimate was lowered to 480,000 hectares