Save the Food Producers
Farmers welfare is continuing to worsen, even though they play a key role in mitigating the threat of a food crisis as a consequence of the Covid-19 epidemic.
JAKARTA, KOMPAS – The farmer exchange rate (NTP) in Indonesia has fallen from 104.16 in January to 103.35 in February, and then dropped again in March to 102.09, according to the latest data from Statistics Indonesia (BPS).
The decline in NTP in March occurred in all sectors of the agriculture industry, including farm crops, horticulture, community plantations, livestock, and fisheries.
The situation reflects the declining welfare of farmers, who are primarily food producers. The condition is unfavorable, as it comes amid a potential food crisis as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic.
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According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Indonesia can mitigate the threat of a potential food crisis by implementing a strategy that prioritizes the welfare of farmers as food producers. In the report "Addressing the impacts of COVID-19 in food crises", the FAO said that disruptions to food supply chain due to the COVID-19 pandemic could be disastrous for the most vulnerable populations.
The FAO recommends providing financial support for agricultural production and maintaining agricultural supply chains. At the same time, governments must guarantee protection for the most vulnerable groups, one means of which is by expanding social safety nets. Vulnerable groups include smallholder farmers, farm workers, and food workers in the value chain, as well as fishermen and fishing communities.
According to Guntur Subagja, the chairman of the Association of Indonesian Farmers and Fisherfolk (Insan Tani-Nelayan), maintaining the productivity and purchasing power of farmers was critical.
"Farmer welfare needs to be maintained by purchasing their commodities at reasonable prices, so that farmers will have an income and retain their [capacity] to produce food," he said on Tuesday (4/14/2020).
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Farmer welfare needs to be maintained by purchasing their commodities at reasonable prices.
Regarding a potential global food crisis due to the pandemic, on Monday, President Joko Widodo called on the Cabinet to encourage domestic food production at a limited meeting on COVID-19 management by video link from Merdeka Palace, Jakarta.
The President is paying heed to the FAO\'s warning about the potential for the pandemic to disrupt food markets and supply chains in many countries. At Monday’s meeting, the President encouraged all relevant ministries to develop a strategy on increasing food production while reducing dependence on imported food.
Many food producers are in a difficult situation during the pandemic. Chicken farmers, for one, have had to lower production in keeping with a decline in demand.
Singgih Januratmoko, the chairman of the Association of Poultry Farmers (Pinsar), said that broiler chicken farmers had to cut production by a maximum 50 percent due to a drop in demand, which had also caused a decline in the farm gate price of chicken to between Rp 5,000 (32 US cents) and Rp 8,000 per kilogram. This is far below the farmers’ production costs of around Rp 17,000 per kilogram.
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Sugarcane farmers are also experiencing unfavorable circumstances. Chairman Soemitro Samadikoen of the Sugarcane Farmers Association (APTRI), said he was concerned that the price of locally produced sugar would continue to fall due to increasing imports. The selling price of domestic sugar has fallen below production costs, which has made farmers reluctant to plant sugarcane.
University of Lampung agriculture professor Bustanul Arifin said that the government needed to be attentive to the welfare of farmers. People were bulk buying food for stockpiling amidst the pandemic. Farmer welfare must therefore be a key focus.
In addition to seeing to the welfare of food producers, maintaining smooth distribution was another thing that needed special attention. IPB University agriculture professor Dwi Andreas Santosa said that maintaining smooth delivery and distribution of food was important. Disruption of food distribution would result in farmers unable to sell their produce.
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The government has injected a variety of funds in the economy to lessen the impacts of the pandemic. For example, it has expanded the number of beneficiaries under the Family Hope Program from 9.2 million to 10 million households, and the Staple Foods Card from 15.2 million families to 20 million families. It is also providing free electricity for three months to household customers in the 450 volt ampere (VA) category and has offered a 50 percent discount for customers in the 900 VA category.
The government has also reallocated a portion of the village funds program into cash aid for rural residents. Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Minister Abdul Halim Iskandar said that the portion of the village funds used previously for rural development could be used as direct cash assistance (BLT) for the poor or those who had been laid off as a result the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year\'s village fund is capped at Rp 72 trillion.
The amount of the assistance would be adjusted to match the village funds allocation for each village. The BLT provides Rp 600,000 per household for three months from April. According to Abdul Halim, the reallocation of village funds to the BLT was based on Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Minister Regulation No. 6/2020 on the priority use of the village funds program. The minister had estimated that Rp 22.4 trillion would be disbursed to 74,953 villages as BLT.
"This year\'s village fund is capped at Rp 72 trillion. Under the existing criteria, Rp 22.4 trillion in funding will be allocated to the BLT to reach 12,487,646 poor families," Abdul Hakim said during a teleconference on Tuesday (14/4).
According to the regulation, the BLT is set at 25 percent for villages with a village funds cap of less than Rp 800 million. While, the BLT allocation is 30 percent for caps between Rp 800 million and Rp 1.2 billion, and 35 percent for caps of above Rp 1.2 billion.
"Those who are eligible to receive the BLT [derived] from village funds are poor families, poor people who have not received any assistance and those who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They should not be registered as recipients of the Preemployment Card program, the Family Hope Program or for non-cash food assistance," said Abdul Halim. (JUD/APO/KRN/MKN/SON/LAS