Food crisis

Kompas Newspaper – January 25, 2023

Woman holding knife: Food estate, what's the news?

Container reads 'Food imports', words on sack read 'Food intensification, diversification, extensification.

Out of the 215 hectares of agricultural land plots opened for the government's food estate program in North Sumatra's Humbang Hasundutan regency, the Ministry of Agriculture claims 146 hectares have successfully been planted with crops by local farmers.

According to a report by Tempo after visiting the Siria-ria village however, there are hundreds of hectares that appear to have been abandoned and left to go fallow.

Irma Suryani Lumban Gaol, a food estate farmer since the initial planting stage in 2020, told Tempo that most of the land was abandoned by farmers due to crop failures.

She said that although farmers received assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture in the form of land clearing, fertilizers and seeds, the ministry insisted that they plant garlic, shallots and potatoes, which are not suited to the local soil.

Gaol said that the failure of the garlic harvest prevented farmers from planting seeds for the second stage of production because they were no longer receiving any government assistance with the Ministry, which argued that farmers must be independent after being assisted with the first stage.

When Tempo sought confirmation over the failed crops and abandoned land, the Ministry said that the problem is the responsibility of the farmers and the Humbang Hasundutan Agriculture Agency.

"Go ask the farmer. Why would we be asked this? This is what I do not like. Don't constantly ask us. Go ask the farmers", said Prihasto Setyanto from the Ministry on January 26.

[Based on an article by Tempo on January 30 titled "Massive unattended food estate land plots, farmer recalls harvesting challenges".]