TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Ministry of Agriculture (Kementan) announced that it is relying on the national food estate program to increase agriculture productivity in 2021 despite having the Covid-19 pandemic hamper the program’s progress.
The ministry’s director general of infrastructure, Sarwo Edhy, on Wednesday, said that the government is eyeing to open new agricultural lands scaling up to 20,000 hectares in Central Kalimantan.
“The initial target was 70,000 hectares but the budget for that was refocused [to other aspects] forcing the rest of it to be realized next year,” said Sarwo Edhy to Tempo on January 20.
The government’s food estate program utilizes 164,000 hectares of shrubland areas and former rice fields while the rest are already taking physical form as rice fields. However, the ‘food estate’ land areas in Central Kalimantan mostly consist of peatland areas.
Prior to this, Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs and Investments Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan stated that North Sumatra has seen 200 hectares of new land being opened which plans to see 73 percent of the land areas planted with potatoes and various types of garlics.
The food estate is seemingly one of the government’s most ambitious programs as President Jokowi had also called for regional leaders in areas connected to the program to accelerate the legal processes and land clearances.
However critics say that the government should focus on crucial aspects that cause the drop in productivity rather than eyeing on realizing the food estate program as previous presidents had also participated in the realization of this project but has yet to show any result.
Moreover, the food estate being mostly established over peatlands with potential low productivity and further harming local farmers. The chairperson of the Indonesian Farmers Association Henry Saragih said the food estate program gives too much room for corporations to enter the picture and make the national food supply be dependent on corporations, whether it be international or domestic.