FARMING PRACTICES IN INDONESIA
Indonesia has the largest economy in South East Asia and is the 16th largest in the world by GDP. About 45% population is engaged in agriculture and the contribution of agriculture to the economy is about 14% in the recent years. Agriculture in Indonesia is regulated by the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture. Indonesia has a uniform tropical climate with abundant rains making it easy to grow the same crops throughout the country.
About 31 million ha of land is utilized for agriculture and most of it for export purposes. Major cultivation takes place in Java (60%). The two main types of farming practices in Indonesia are smallholder farming and large private owned estates or plantations. Smallholder crops include rice, vegetables and fruits and estate grown crops include rubber, tobacco, sugar, palm oil, hard fiber, coffee, tea, and cocoa.
Indonesia is the third largest producer of rice next to China and India and it is also their staple food. Other staple crops include some vegetables such as sweet potato, corn, cabbage, shallots, mustard greens etc. Sugar is the largest commercial crop. The large plantations focus on export commodities such as palm oil and rubber and the small scale farmers focus on regional population producing rice, soybeans, corn, fruits and vegetables.
Indonesia enjoys abundant rain and sunshine throughout the year and has vast fertile arable lands. It is the largest producer of palm oil, cloves and cinnamon in the world. Most of the farm land is used for growing rice. Farmers also grow vegetables, and keep chicken, ducks and pigs. Villages in Indonesia are called Kampungs with houses made from forest materials. Families come together to farm and sell their produce at local markets. Some issues faced in Indonesia are clearing natural rainforests for logs, plantation fires, forest fires and so on.
The horticulture produce is obtained from local farmers and the prices are dependent on seasonal availability. There is a large market for horticulture produce. Fruits and vegetables are imported as the local produce may be inferior in terms of quality. Indonesia imports from Thailand, China and United States mainly. Spices are called rempah and their mixture is called bumbu. Indonesian food consists of a variety of hot curried vegetables and steamed rice. Spices are used in cooking vegetables, meat, poultry, and seafood. Some popular spices grown in this country are nutmeg, clove, black pepper, turmeric, lemongrass, curry leaf, cinnamon, coriander and tamarind.
Indonesia is the world’s largest producer and consumer of palm oil and about 6.4 million ha of land are used for this purpose. Palm oil is used in cooking and cosmetic purposes. Coconut oil is important as well as the milk derived from it and both are used in the local cuisine. Other important crops are rubber, tea and coffee.
About 70% of the crude palm oil produced in Indonesia is exported and is the most popular form of oil used by the locals. Palm oil is cultivated under large scale plantations that are grown privately. Palm oil is a popular vegetable oil also used for cosmetics and bio-fuels.
The plantations are located in the Island of Sumatra. Palm oil plantation is propagated by seeds. The germinated seeds are planted and the seedlings spend about a year in the nursery before being transferred to the main fields. Here, the young palms are planted about 9m apart resulting in 128 – 140 trees per hectare. The oil is extracted from the kernel and each fruit contains 50% oil. Palm oil is harvested throughout the year. Each tree produces 10 tons of fresh fruit bunches per hectare. The seeds germinate in about 100 days from sowing. Palm trees last for about 90 years at the most.
The trees could take 10 years before they start producing flowers. The fruits contain dates or coconuts and each date contains one seed. These seeds once germinated produce another palm tree. The trees grow up to a height of 45 feet.
Some of the challenges faced in the agricultural sector are climatic changes, increasing population, distribution and marketing of agricultural produce, and so on. In this respect, the strategies have been developed to conduct land audits, protection and conservation of land, maintain soil fertility and optimize water resources.
Cultivation of rice is equally as important as other crops mentioned above. Rice terraces are found in Bali, Sumatra and Sulawesi. Rice farming is carried out while also considering preservation of water. In Indonesia, most farming relies on heavy uses of fertilizers. The new rice varieties that have developed also require fertilizers and pesticides usage to grow well. All this causes negative impacts on the environment and efforts are being made to relook at these practices. Organic farming is looked at as an alternative to resolve some issues with respect to the environment. Sustainable farming is considered beneficial as well and it helps farmers obtain a fair price for their produce. Farmers are receiving enhanced support in the form of access to markets to sell their produce.
There is a focus on developing alternative agriculture system through the Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA) method. This method encourages farmers to use lesser chemicals and use alternates instead. This also helps improve farmer’s livelihood and reduces input costs. The funding and support in the agricultural sector is received from VECO Indonesia. Thanks to the new developments, farmers no longer have to sell their produce at low costs. VECO conducts exhibitions and fairs in Bali and Java for the sustainable farm produce to help farmer’s situations. VECO not only helps farmers, but also NGOs and consumers interested in sustainable farming as a concept.