Indonesian House One Step Closer to Revising 1996 Food Law

18 Oktober, 2012 | Source: The Jakarta Globe

The House of Representatives is scheduled to hold a plenary meeting that will mark the final stage of discussion to pass the revision to the 1996 Food Law.


Agriculture Minister Suswono said the revision would still allow imports of food to help fulfill domestic supply, despite broader policy aims to secure supplies from local producers.

“We will put forth maximum effort to produce foods domestically,” Suswono said. “Import options will remain open but it will be limited to secure the supply gap at home.”

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration has set an ambitious goal of making the nation self-sufficient in key food commodities such as rice, cattle, sugar, corn and soybeans by 2014.

The government imposed taxes or quotas on imports of key commodities in order to encourage local farmers to produce more, while discouraging the reliance of imports.

The revision to the 1996 Food Law has been discussed in two House sessions.

The strategy to enable Indonesia to become self sufficient in key food commodities, diversify staple foods and establishment of a food authority that ensures an adequate food supply were the key themes that had prolonged the discussions.

Suswono said the revision also opens option for non-rice foods to be developed into staple foods.

“All this time, there has been an assumption that those who do not consume rice are those who are suffering,” he said. “This stigma will be changed,”

Rice is the main staple for many Indonesians, but the government also encourage people to turn to other foods that are high in carbohydrates, such as corn, cassava and sago.

The law’s revision also carries a mandate for the government to establish a food authority body, however, there are no details on who will take such responsibility. Before such body is established, the state procurement agency Bulog will take care of some of the responsibilities.

Hatta Rajasa, the coordinating minister for economic affairs, announced in September that the duties of Bulog will include price stabilization for soybeans and sugar, to go along with rice.

The announcement was made after the nation struggled to cope with the rising price of imported soybeans. Global soybean prices were spiraling up due to a severe drought in the United States.

The food law will also stipulate a requirement on producers to put include halal labeling, for food that meets the classification as halal on Islamic rules.

Producers once resisted the idea when it was first floated in 2009, worried that securing halal certification would add to the cost of production.

The overall food policy of Indonesia was criticized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which said in a report that the food self-sufficiency goal starves poor consumers, including millions of farmers, who are net buyers of foods.

The OECD, which includes developed nations as its members, suggested that Indonesia open its domestic food market to international trade and move away from its “self-sufficiency” objectives.

The report said the government’s policy that sets import-protection to increase returns to farmers actually leads to an increase in food costs for poor consumers.

 

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