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Dive Deeper into the Food Estate

By: Teguh Iman Affandi

Food Estate (FE) is a project initiated by the state that still leaves problems. Therefore, Kaoem Telapak held a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) on Thursday and Friday, 29 – 30 September 2022. The FGD invited academics, civil society groups, and journalists to delve deeper into the government project.

Focus Group Discussion on Food Estate, Jakarta, 29-30 September 2022

Ahmad Arif from Kompas and Agoeng Wijaya from Tempo shared their experiences covering the FE project in the FGD. According to Arif, food is part of cultural identity. He also highlighted how the food of the Indonesian people, which used to be diverse, has slowly begun to shift to become uniform.

Arif explained that in 1954, 55% of the carbohydrates consumed by Indonesians were rice, and then the number rose to 81% in 1980. Whereas in 1951, there were still other forms of carbohydrates consumed by the Indonesian people, namely cassava, corn, and other tubers. According to Arif, the shifting was designed by the government’s policy. “The national food system must be returned to the concept of the diversity of the archipelago, which has various bioregions and cultures,” said Arif.

Agoeng added that as a journalist, he considered the FE project has almost perfect news value. “From the aspect of actuality, public interest, proximity, magnitude, conflict, human interest, surprise, and figure, there are all of them in the FE project,” said Agoeng. Therefore, Agoeng also called for collaboration among journalists, activists, and researchers.

In the afternoon session, an academic from the Bogor Agricultural Institute, Prof. Dwi Andreas Santosa, explained the food security condition in Indonesia. He cited data from the Global Food Security Index stating that Indonesia’s food security had decreased since 2016. In the last position, Indonesia ranked 69th. “Indonesia is worse than middle eastern countries,” he said.

Then, Prof Andreas commented on the project. The FE has been around for 25 years. According to Prof. Andreas, FE has consistently failed. In 1998, the government sent 15 thousand farming families to cultivate peatlands, but there were no results. During President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in 2008, the government developed three FEs in Merauke. Thirty-seven companies participated in the project. However, the results are none.

In 2013, FE was re-developed in Ketapang, and the outcome was a public officer was arrested, due to corruption. In the Jokowi era, the government had declared Merauke as a Rice Estate, but according to Prof. Andreas, the results still are not impressive.

Prof. Andreas stated that FE always failed because it denied the four pillars of food land development. The four pillars are soil feasibility or agroclimatic, infrastructure feasibility, technological feasibility, and socio-economic feasibility.

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