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Indonesia Must Diversify Its Staple Food to Ensure Food Security for All: UN

Indonesia must implement policies aimed at diversifying its staple foods and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption to ensure the right to food for all, a United Nations representative said.

Data compiled by the Ministry of Agriculture shows that Indonesia will consume an estimated 33.8 million metric tons of rice this year, compared with 30.65 million tons in 2017. Average rice consumption amounted to almost 150 kilograms per person last year, which is higher than in other major rice producing countries, such as China and India.

While Indonesia has been trying to become rice self-sufficient through technological innovations and improved irrigation methods, the country still has to import approximately 3 million tons rice per annum from neighboring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam to satisfy domestic demand.

According to Hilal Elver, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, the government did not consider regional cultural differences when it decided to make rice the staple food across the archipelago.

"There is a need to diversify policies to limit the focus on rice… Polices developed to reduce food insecurity appear to be overly focused on rice, such as at the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate," Elver told a press conference in April.

The MIFEE project, launched on 2.5 million hectares of converted land in Merauke district in Papua Province in 2011, is aimed at increasing national self-sufficiency in food crops such as rice, corn and sugar in order to reduce import dependency.

Agung Hendriadi, the head of Indonesia's Food Security Agency (BKP), said social inequalities and poverty cause food insecurity in the country and that his agency has prepared several programs to address the problem in remote villages that are difficult to reach.

"These programs will teach community members to produce healthy ingredients for their households independently," Agung said.

The BKP, in cooperation with the North Sulawesi provincial government, also introduced the Eating Without Rice Movement (Gentanasi) in September last year aimed at replacing rice and flour with local foods as sources of carbohydrates.

"Efforts to reduce the consumption of rice and wheat should be followed by the provision of carbohydrates from local foods, such as sago, cassava, sweet potato, breadfruit and bananas," Agung said, as reported by state-run news agency Antara.

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