The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Indonesia may face a food crisis within the next 10 years should it fail to overcome the disparity between its rapidly growing population and its limited ability to expand arable land for food production.
Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono said Monday that with the population growth rate of between 1.3 percent and 1.5 percent a year, Indonesia needs to increase the annual production of the country's staple food of rice by at least 1.8 million tons by 2009.
Such a production increase requires another 600,000 hectares of paddy fields, while the country is at present in short supply of available arable land.
"The demand for more land can actually be fulfilled if there weren't so many land conversion for other purposes, such as for factories or housings," Anton told Antara at a workshop on food sustainability in Makassar.
"But the fact is that the availability of potential arable land is currently unavailable."
With Indonesia's current population growth creating such dilemmas of land usage, Anton said food production may face grave problems within the next 10 to 20 years if nothing is done.
Indonesia will also be unable to cut its dependency on importing food, including rice.
The republic has to import 1.5 million tons of rice this year to secure supply and stabilize prices. A total 1.17 million tons of the planned rice import has as of the beginning of November been distributed to the domestic market, the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) said.
The country's production of unhusked rice is expected to reach 57.05 million tons this year, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) reported, which would be up 4.76 percent from last year.
Anton said efforts to address possible problems of food production in the future included to increase production using the currently available land through the government's agriculture revitalization program in every regency across the country.
The program is expected to reverse the recent production drop and increase it through better production methods, as well as through the renovation and restructuring of every available production means.
This includes better land use, increasing the amount of productive land managed by each farmer -- and resolve land disputes which are only hampering production.