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President's office pushes back against claims of food estate program failure

Jakarta Globe - January 22, 2024

Mita Amalia Hapsari, Jakarta – Presidential Staff Office Coordinator Ari Dwipayana has refuted statements made by vice-presidential candidates Mohammad Mahfud MD and Muhaimin Iskandar, who labeled the government's food estate policy as a failed program.

"This food estate policy is a responsive step to the situation we are facing. We realize that the current world economic conditions are experiencing uncertainty," Ari said on Monday.

He stressed that post-Covid-19 pandemic, many countries worldwide are struggling to meet the food needs of their citizens, leading to global food price instability. "This includes a significant increase in food prices in the world market," he added.

Ari explained that to respond to this situation, the Indonesian government has taken significant steps by implementing the food estate program. This program has been carried out since 2021 in Humbang Hasundutan, Tapanuli Selatan, Tapanuli Utara, and Pakpak Bharat in North Sumatra, covering an area of 30,000 hectares for cultivating potatoes, shallots, and garlic.

"President Joko Widodo encourages the policy of a food reserve in response to the pandemic's impact and the emerging food crisis," said Ari Dwipayana.

The goal of this policy is to create a production that can serve as a government food reserve, allowing Indonesia to be self-sufficient in food without depending on imports from other countries, especially when global food prices significantly increase.

Ari emphasized that the implementation of this program is continually being evaluated for improvements to ensure the expected achievements are realized.

"Yes, it is continuously evaluated because the implementation involves several complex aspects and requires refinements," he concluded.

VP candidate Muhaimin Iskandar argued that the food estate program has proven to be a big failure, causing ecological damages and minimal impact, if any, on national food security efforts.

"In the past 10 years, the food estate program has marginalized our farmers and indigenous people, triggered agrarian conflicts, and caused ecological disasters," Muhaimin said in his opening remarks at the fourth presidential debate of the 2024 Presidential Election in Jakarta on Sunday.

Mahfud, the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, also criticized the food estate program in the debate. Despite this, after the debate, he reiterated his commitment to continuing President Joko Widodo's ongoing initiatives in the post-debate press conference.

In 2010, ex-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) brought back a food security program called Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) in Papua. The goal was to open 1.2 million hectares of farmland, but the MIFEE project faced delays and only succeeded in cultivating 100 hectares.

Source: https://jakartaglobe.id/news/presidents-office-pushes-back-against-claims-of-food-estate-program-failur