Rice is key to Indonesia’s food security, officials say

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IAARD-IRRI work-plan meeting

The Indonesian government is ramping up efforts to become food-secure through rice self-sufficiency and plans to greatly increase investments in agriculture, as well as strengthen collaborations with international research partners.

A strategic national target is to increase rice production by 200 kilograms per hectare every year. To support this, a reinvigorated Indonesia rice research work plan was drafted this week by senior officials and leading scientists from the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (IAARD) and the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

The work plan, spanning 2015-19, aligns with directives of the Joko Widodo administration toward increased productivity, with larger buffer stocks to secure the food supply. Investments in rice science are expected to sustain the plan and strengthen Indonesian research capacity.

Not just high-yielding, but climate-ready rice

Dr. Haryono, IAARD director general, said that the priorities of the Indonesian government are aligned with IRRI’s global rice science agenda. "Indonesian farmers have been planting rice varieties developed by Indonesian breeders working with IRRI scientists, for decades," he said. "Our rice breeding efforts are now focused not only on higher yields but also now on adaptability of varieties to unfavorable environments, conditions in which are often worsened by climate change."

Under the revitalized strategy for the rice sector, Indonesia will draw on the best of rice science to further improve yields on favorable land currently available, while expanding rice production to frontier areas, where the rice plant must withstand harsher environments and constantly-evolving disease and pests.

Results from past joint efforts are heartening. "Our most recent successful collaboration is the release of Inpari 30 Ciherang-Sub 1 (a flood-tolerant rice variety) in 2012," said Dr. Haryono. "It is now planted in West Java and is a huge source of assurance to farmers especially during the monsoon season." The flood-tolerant rice is currently planted in areas affected by recent heavy rains.

Matthew Morell, IRRI's chief of research, said that collaboration is key to responding to challenges surrounding rice production. "In the face of pressure from the effects of climate change and changing social and demographics structures affecting the rice sector, now is the best time to come together and identify critical areas where we can bring together resources and experiences," said Dr. Morell. "IRRI has a long history of engagement with Indonesia and is committed to strengthening this relationship."

40 years of joint research

The 2015-19 rice work plan is the latest in a long line of formal agreements signed between the Government of Indonesia and IRRI, in a collaboration spanning more than four decades. It will provide support to the country's rice self-sufficiency program, offer a platform for collaborative research between IRRI and Indonesia's rice research programs, and build national rice research capacity.

An independent assessment published in 2011 has valued IRRI's varietal improvement contributions to Indonesia's rice production at an average of US$644 million per year from 1985 to 2009. This amounted to added income of $76 per hectare for Indonesian rice farmers.

IRRI has released 230 improved rice varieties that produce more grain, are pest resistant, and tolerant of the effects of climate change such as flooding, drought, and salty soil. Accompanying crop management practices were also disseminated to farmers through the national extension system.

One of these management technologies is an ICT-based application, the Layanan Konsultasi Padi (LKP), which provides location-specific advice to farmers. It is the local version of the Rice Crop Manager, which has been widely disseminated in the Philippines, among other countries. LKP was launched during the work plan meeting, held on 16-17 February 2015 in Jakarta.

Racing with population growth

Rice is a major staple food for Indonesians, and its production also provides livelihood for more than 14 million Indonesian farm households.

Indonesia harvested close to 71 million tons of rice in 2014, and boasts an average yield of 5 tons per hectare. Despite the 3.2% average rate of increase in production, Indonesia imported 1.8 million metric tons in 2012.

The average Indonesian consumes about 139 kilograms of rice a year, and the country’s population—now at 249 million—is expected to increase further at a rate of 1.5% each year.

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