24 Juni 2010

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Food security and diversification

From time to time, food has been constantly regarded as a hot and key issue worldwide due to its essential role in determining the existence of human life. The slogan of “no life without food” clearly shows the significant meaning of food for humankind.
As defined by FAO (2008), food security at least consists of four dimensions namely physical availability of food, economic and physical access to food, food utilization and food stability.
The ideal food security will be realized when food availability, access and utilization are in a stable condition. They can be managed from time to time properly. Insecurity may appear if instability occurs such as weather changing, political turmoil and economic crisis.
Scholars and practitioners argue that one of the most important strategies on food security is improvement of food diversification. Food diversification can be understood as a wider presence of food variety over time. By diversifying food varieties overtime, it certainly will enhance the household access on food security dimensions.
Capability and variety of food production, development and improvement of food industrialization, and promotion of a wide variety on food consumption habits, are among the essential factors for diversifying food.
From the perspective of capability and variety of food production, food policy in Indonesia so far has improved but it is still not enough. The policy is likely still rice bias indicated by much more programs related to rice production, while the other food crops get less attention. The green revolution, which was focused on wet rice production in irrigated areas can be the evidence of food development bias.
Placed in a subtropical region, Indonesia has huge variety of food crops including tubers and roots crops. Larger parts of them are traditionally available and simply cultivated by peasants on rain fed and or dry land areas. However, technological progress, investment and utilization of them have been under-developed.
In certain areas, local non-rice foods for some decades ago have become staple dietary needs among local people such as sago and tubers in Papua and Maluku; maize in Madura-East Java and for some part in Nusa Tenggara, and cassava in the mountainous areas of East Java, Central Java and Yogyakarta. However, the trend has been remarkably decreasing. The dependence of rice as staple food continuously increases overtime.
New order under Soeharto regime likely has given more attention on rice as national staple dietary. Rice has got high popularity national wide. High prestige and good image of rice has been widely promoted by national and local governments.
Distribution of rice as ration for civil servant and family likely has strengthened the rice important on national food policy.
As documented by FAO and IRRI   (International Rice Research Institute) Indonesian is recorded consuming the largest number of rice per capita by 139 kilograms per year in 2008. Year by year, the condition also reveals a similar picture. Malaysia has reduced the consumption on rice standing at 80 kilograms per capita per year, while Japanese has done better and on average consumes only 60 kilograms.
FAO data (2004-2006) indicates that Indonesia still highly depends on cereal, roots and tubers (CRT) for dietary energy supply (DES) by 70.1 percent, with the largest proportion coming from rice (49.8 percent). The Philippines has experienced progress by a proportion of  CRT on DES at 59.2 percent and contribution of rice is at 48 percent.

The consumption pattern in Malaysia has been remarkably improving. The proportion of  CRT on DES accounts for 48.8 percent and contribution of rice is only 24.7 percent. While Japan as a developed country has been doing much better indicated by the proportion of CRT on DES standing at 41.1 percent and contribution of rice is only 22.1 percent.
FAO (2009) notes that during 2004-2006, the number of undernourished people stands at 36.7 million, representing 16 percent of the total population. This number is slightly better than in Thailand, which accounts for 17 percent, but is still worse compared with the Philippines, with a proportion standing at 15 percent.
A high dependency on rice for Indonesia has a serious impact on its production. Even though as has been recorded by the Central Statistics Agency for the past three years (2007-2009), Indonesia is self-sufficient regarding rice production; but the risk of food shortage has always been shadowing national food production.
Uncertainty on the global climate makes food production capability less predictable. Looking back at Indonesian food history, we have had an experience as the largest rice importer in the world  and pressure population growth has become an everlasting issue on national food policy.
A study by Mewa Ariani (2007) on the diversification of food consumption in Indonesia confirms that rice consumption (60.7 percent in urban and 63.9 percent in rural areas) is still accountably higher than the national expectation standard (50 percent for both urban and rural areas). While consumption on food extracted from roots, vegetables, fat and meat is still under national expectation standards.
The national food policy should properly address food problems relating to food diversification. The diversification on food production is supposed to be adopted for a wide variety of crops beyond the focus on rice. Clear vision and supporting policies on it are desperately needed.
Revitalization of traditional and local food is likely very useful. On dietary behavior, systematic promotion and education on healthy and qualified foods containing local sources is also essential. In order to produce good local food, the development and improvement of food processing industries is absolutely required.
Looking back at Indonesian food history, we have had an experience as the largest rice importer in the world.

Subedjo,The writer is a lecturer at the School of Agriculture, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, and is a PhD candidate at the University of Tokyo. The opinions are the author’s own.
opini The Jakarta Post, 24 Juni 2010