Blog •  25/02/2020

Indonesia's food security good, but climate change lurks as threat: Report

Indonesia's food security performance is good, despite vulnerabilities to natural-resource shortages and climate change, according to the 2019 Global Food Security Index.

The index, published by The Economist Intelligence Unit and supported by Corteva AgriScience, measures a country's food security performance based on food affordability, availability and quality and safety. Further, the index also shows how well a country adapts to natural-resource and climate-related risks.

Indonesia ranks 62 out of 113 countries in the index, scoring 63 out of 100, which qualifies its food security as "good". The country's score improved 0.6 from last year, which is equal to the global average improvement, but still slightly below the average in Asia Pacific at 0.8.

2019 Global Food Security Index

Of 19 indicators in three categories, Indonesia achieved a "very good" score (above 80 points) on nine, particularly those within the affordability category.

However, Corteva AgriScience ASEAN managing director Farra Siregar said it was important to balance affordability for consumers and profitability for farmers. "Rural populations, often farmers, are among the most susceptible to food security and nutritional challenges," she said in an email interview with The Jakarta Post.

The report mentions four challenges for Indonesia (defined as indicators with scores below 25), which are public expenditure on agricultural research and development, gross domestic product per capita, protein quality and dietary diversity.

Farra said that spending on agricultural research and development could help improve agricultural technology, which in turn could lead to stabilized food production. "Science and technology are key to striking the balance between more and better quality food for consumers, which also enhances the welfare and income of farmers," she said.

"It’s also important to remember that it is estimated that more than 75 percent of those living in poverty with little access to varied and nutritious diets are living in rural communities. Thus, it is often the farmers and farmers’ communities themselves who have least access to affordable nutritious food," Farra said.

The agriculture sector contributes the most to the country's employment, employing 27.33 percent of 126.51 million workers, according to a report by Statistics Indonesia (BPS) published in August 2019.

Further, Farra called for the need to shift the focus to women farmers. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 43 to 70 percent of the agricultural workforce in some countries comprises women. In Indonesia alone, over 40 percent of women make up the nearly 22 million smallholders farmers working in the Indonesian agricultural and forestry sectors. 

"[Women farmers’] productivity in the field has a direct impact on food security. But barriers to finance, education and land rights limit their ability to produce. And the current system still leans heavily toward the needs of male farmers," Farra said, "We need to close the gender gap in agriculture and rethink the system to ensure it meets the needs of women."

This is in line with the recommendation from a report published in October by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Food Research Institute (IFPRI) with support from the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas). The report, which reveals that 22 million people in Indonesia suffered from chronic hunger from 2016 to 2018, says that the country could end hunger by 2030 through investment in agricultural research and development, irrigation expansion and water use efficiency, as well as improved rural infrastructure including roads, electricity and railways.

Indonesia has also long faced high rates of stunting among children, which experts attribute to the lack of animal protein consumption. According to UNICEF report The State of the World’s Children 2019: East Asia and Pacific, 59 percent of children under 5 years old in Indonesia are not developing properly because of stunting, wasting or obesity. The figure is the second-highest in the region.

The climate factor

This year's Global Food Security Index features a natural resources and resilience category, which highlights the vulnerability of global food security as a result of depleting resources and climate change.

According to the report, the category "assesses a country’s exposure to the impacts of a changing climate, its susceptibility to natural resource risks, and how the country is adapting to these risks."

Indonesia's score in the natural resources and resilience category is among the lowest at 110 out of 113 countries. 

According to Corteva, the low score can be attributed in part to the country's natural environment– it was found to be one of the top-four countries most exposed to factors such as flooding, temperature rises and drought, alongside Singapore, Bahrain and Ecuador. 

In November, the Post reported that Indonesia saw its worst drought since 2015, a result of changing season patterns caused by climate change.

Farmer empowerment through providing access to the latest seed and crop protection technologies and training could help increase the country's food resilience, according to Farra.

"[We need] to rethink our food systems – to transform how food is produced, transported and consumed while minimizing environmental risks," Farra said.

Lessons from Singapore

Indonesia should probably take a note or two from its closest neighbor Singapore. With a much smaller size and almost no natural resources of its own, Singapore has consistently ranked well on the food security index.

According to data from the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), the country imports more than 90 percent of its food from overseas -- making it highly vulnerable to any changes in international trade or the climate.

In a separate email interview, the SFA mentioned three "food baskets" that are keys to securing the food supply in Singapore. The first is import-source diversification. Singapore has diversified its food import sources, from 140 countries in 2004 to more than 180 countries in 2018, "to avoid being overly dependent on any particular country for any particular critical food item".

Singapore depended solely on Indonesia for live pig imports for 18 years until the country reopened the importation of live pigs from Malaysia again in 2017, for example. Live pig imports used to come from only Bulan Island in Riau Islands. However, the country currently imports frozen pork from 24 countries to ensure diversification.

The second is to grow locally, which aims to reduce the country's reliance on imports and serves as a buffer supply should there be any disruption to its import sources. Singapore is currently aiming for "30 by 30", which means to produce 30 percent of the country's nutritional needs by 2030.

The last is to grow overseas, whereby the Singapore government supports local companies to expand overseas in order to reach bigger markets while simultaneously allowing these companies to export food back to the country.

Singapore is among the countries to be negatively affected by climate change, according to the 2019 Global Food Security Index. According to the SFA, technology is key. 

"We envisage farming in Singapore to become more like manufacturing – where production takes place within a controlled environment with defined inputs. The result is an assured and consistent output, and a predictable way to address the effects of climate change and extreme weather," said the agency.

For example, indoor multi-story LED lighting vegetable farms and indoor multi-story recirculating aquaculture systems can produce 10 to 15 times more vegetables and fish per hectare respectively compared with traditional vegetable and land-based fish farms, according to the SFA. 

To achieve this vision, the SFA is working with farmers and allows farms to upgrade their systems through a S$63 million (US$46.5 million) Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF). There is also $144 million of research funding under the Singapore Food Story R&D Programme, to enable research and development in sustainable urban food production, future foods and food safety science and innovation.

Sumber : The Jakarta Post