All we do is import rice

Kompas – October 24, 2018

Kid: How come all we do is import rice?

Farmer: Yes, well, if we didn’t we’d be dead (scarecrow reads “rice data hoax”)

A polemic has erupted over the importation of rice verses self-sufficiency with supporters of presidential challenger Prabowo Subianto using the issue to attack incumbent President Joko Widodo.

An economist in Prabowo’s camp, Dradjad Wibowo, criticised Jokowi for having a “hobby of importing rice” claiming that Widodo has imported the largest amount of rice since the New Order regime of former president Suharto. The agriculture minister has refuted this.

The Widodo administration is currently set to import as much as 2 million tons of rice this year – well short of fulfilling his 2014 presidential campaign pledge of achieving rice self-sufficiency – as severe droughts are expected to disrupt harvests. A price spike in the country’s staple food would not be beneficial to the Widodo reelection hopes.

The Prabowo camp has also made allegations that elements within Jokowi’s government were benefiting financially (that is, illegally) from rice imports. That political insiders have taken advantage of state-controlled rice imports in Indonesia has long been an open secret, so the continued practice under Widodo’s administration is in fact nothing new.