Riani Sanusi Putri, Jakarta – The Indonesian Farmers Union (SPI) head of national strategic studies Mujahid Widian on Tuesday lamented the irony in the rice import conducted by the government, which he said is down to the timing of the import. He said that rice farmers will soon conduct a grand harvest in early 2023.
"If the imports are done. What's the fate of farmers? Especially considering that a number of regions will declare grand harvest in early 2023," said Mujahid on December 6.
He believes the brouhaha surrounding rice imports is a reflection of the lack of comprehensive handling of food issues in Indonesia. The classic problem, he said, namely falls over the fact that there are discrepancies between data collected by state ministries and institutions.
This issue has been prevented with the use of single data to avoid conflict of interest. According to him, the issue of government rice reserves should have been better anticipated by making several policy changes.
He believes, changes need to be introduced to the government's purchase price (HPP) for rice and unhulled rice. He considers the current HPP irrelevant and needs immediate revision.
With the current price and purchase requirements for grain and rice, farmers prefer to sell their commodities to middlemen rather than to Bulog or the State Logistics Agency, which he believes should also be able to work with farmers' cooperatives to design rice absorption schemes.
However, he asserted that this can only happen once the HPP reflects a fair price for both farmers and the government.
Head of the National Food Agency, Arief Prasetyo Adi, said that the government's rice reserves were running low and that the option of importing rice had to be added immediately to face future emergency situations.
"These food reserves must be available though it is not issued freely [to the market] and is only used for several Government programs," said Arief in his statement on Tuesday, December 6
The imported rice stock is planned to only be used in specific conditions, such as disaster management, price intervention if needed, and several other government activities. Their use will also be closely monitored to ensure that no one enters the market.
The government then promised that the imported rice would not interfere with the farmers' crops.