Food Security Policies in Maritime Southeast Asia: The case of Indonesia

By Zamroni Salim on June 24, 2010

The 2007/08 global food crisis forced countries around the world, including those in Southeast Asia, to revisit their food security policies. Despite the richness of the region's natural resources, the countries in Southeast Asia have long struggled to fight hunger and poverty. This study primarily examines the food security concerns of Indonesia, which is the largest economy in Southeast Asia. More specifically, it looks into the state of food insecurity in three provinces in the country: East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara and Yogyakarta.

This study mainly argues that the attainment of food security should not only be concentrated on the fulfilment of the demand for food supplies in the domestic market, but should also take into account people's ability to purchase affordable, nutritious and healthy food.

Key findings:

  • The problem of food insecurity in Indonesia is not necessarily due to a lack of food supplies in the domestic market, but has more to do with the inability of people to access the food that is available.

  • The 2007/08 global food crisis generated significant negative impacts for people living in both urban and rural areas in Indonesia. The greatest shock came from the price volatility of palm oil, but significant increases also occurred in the prices of rice, soybeans and wheat. Indonesian households were forced to use a larger percentage of their income to buy food.

  • The problem of food access in the country is further heightened by poor infrastructure, which prevents the smooth transportation of affordable food products throughout the country.

  • The preoccupation of the Indonesian government with achieving food self-sufficiency, which emphasizes the production of food products for domestic consumption, has done little to improve the access of poor people to affordable, healthy and nutritious foods to fulfil their dietary needs.

  • A number of food security policies adopted by the Indonesian government have incorporated the food access dimension. Initiatives such as the Conditional Direct Aid Cash and Rice for the Poor programs and enhanced access by the poor to state-funded health facilities are already in place to improve the food access of the poor to affordable, healthy and nutritious food. These initiatives, however, are still far from perfect.

Key recommendations:

  • Food security policies issued by the central government should also take into account people's ability to secure sustainable and adequate employment so as to improve their ability to access food.

  • Sustainable employment in the food sector could be achieved through the development and expansion of the agro industry, which has the capacity to increase the supply of agricultural products during the harvest period.

Report details

IISD, 2010