While Indonesia is not experiencing any major food shortages like many countries in the world, the country is not out of the woods yet, with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s government and supporters still hesitating to celebrate. The imminent hike in domestic gasoline prices will likely trigger inflation, and millions will soon find themselves economically worse off as prices of basic foodstuffs, including rice, increase, even though supplies are sufficient.
Nevertheless, the achievement has not gone unnoticed, with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), presenting President Widodo with a commemorative plaque for “Achieving Agri-Food Systems Resiliency and Rice Sufficiency during 2019-2021 through the Application of Rice Technology” in a ceremony at the State Palace in Jakarta on August 14.
The government’s food security strategy, which Widodo has been working to advance since he took office in 2014, has spared Indonesia from the food crisis that many countries are experiencing as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Rice production has been growing modestly from 31.11 million tons in 2019, to 31.36 million in 2020, to 31.32 million in 2021. At the same time, per capita consumption has been declining, from 99.1 kilograms in 2016 to 94.4 kg in 2021, as people gradually diversify their diets.
Rice self-sufficiency is achieved by simultaneously tackling both supply and demand. With the country’s population growing at 1.07%, each year there are about 2.73 million more mouths to feed. Growing more rice must still be part of the national food security strategy, and the diversification of the country’s food intake must continue to be encouraged.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Indonesia was the single largest buyer of rice on the global market, and neighboring Vietnam and Thailand, among the biggest exporters, would increase their prices as soon they heard of an Indonesian plan to enter the market. President Widodo made rice self-sufficiency his goal in 2014 under the national food security strategy. The strategy has allowed the country to avoid a rice shortage and price hikes from imports in the currently thin global rice market.