Gisela Swaragita, Jakarta – Munirwan, a farmer and village head in Meunasah Rayeuk village, North Aceh regency, has been arrested for producing and selling a rice seed variety called IF8 that has not been officially released to the public by the government.
Munirwan was arrested on July 23. He is facing charges under Article 12 of Law No. 12/1992 on plant cultivation that rules that plant varieties from abroad must be officially released by the government before being permitted to be commercially distributed by farmers.
The Indonesian Farmer Alliance (API) has condemned the arrest, saying the village head had the good intention to improve the welfare of the villagers.
"This is ironic for an agrarian country like Indonesia because a small farmer wants to contribute to the state by achieving food resilience and independence," said API's production, cooperation and marketing management head Muhammad Rifai in a press statement received on Friday.
He said that Munirwan had tried to help President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo achieve his nine-point development plan (Nawa Cita) vision to establish seeding centers in 1,000 villages.
Muhammad also highlighted that Indonesia faced food resilience issues because of climate change, a farmer regeneration crisis and uncontrolled conversion of agricultural land into other functions.
"Small-scale farmers like Pak Munirwan and other seed farmers who cultivate seeds are important to achieve food resilience and independence in Indonesia," Muhammad said, adding that Munirwan should be released without any conditions.
The IF8 seeds were given to farmers by the Aceh provincial government at the end of 2017 as a trial. After several great harvests, the farmers saved the seeds for the next sowing season and sold the rest.
The seed storage and trading is managed by village-owned enterprises (BUMDs). The Aceh government, via the Aceh Agriculture Agency, reported Munirwan to the police.
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry's head of plant varieties and planting permits, Erizal Jamal, said separately that everyone had to abide by the prevailing laws.
"The law rules that only varieties produced by small-scale farmers can be distributed within their own communities. They do not need a permit from the government," Erizal told The Jakarta Post on Friday. (bbn)