President Widodo expands the application of agroecological agriculture and continues organic fertilizer subsidies

(Jarkata, April 27, 2023) The President of Indonesia Joko Widodo expanded the use of agroecology and continued the organic fertiliser subsidies during a recent limited cabinet meeting attended by the Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, various government ministers[1] and the Chairman of the Indonesian Peasants’ Union (SPI) Henry Saragih. The Head of the National Food Agency, Managing Director of PT Pupuk Indonesia, Chairman of the Organic Production Partners Association, and Chairman of the Indonesian Society of peasants and Organic Agriculture participated in the meeting held on the 27th of April at the Merdeka Palace, Jakarta.

President Widodo outlined the purpose of the limited cabinet meeting as a follow-up to his recent visit to the rice planting ceremony on the 6th April at the SPI Tuban Food Sovereign Area (KDP) in East Java.

He highlighted the importance of fertilizer availability, particularly for strategic food, in preserving food sovereignty in the face of present global difficulties. According to him, the use of organic fertilizers not only addresses the issue of chemical fertilizer shortage and expensive cost, but also increases agricultural production in the country and maintains soil fertility levels.

The President’s views were echoed by the Syahrul Yasin Limpo, Minister of Agriculture. Minister Limpo emphasized the necessity of organic fertilizer in restoring deteriorated soil fertility.

Similarly, Lukman Hakim of the Organic Production Partners Association emphasized the need of maintaining organic fertilizer subsidies. While, Subandrio, Chairman of the Indonesian Society of Organic Peasants and Agriculture, also stressed the relevance of organic fertilizer in the development of agriculture in Indonesia.

In the meeting, SPI Chairman Henry Saragih explained how the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has caused natural damage (soil is becoming increasingly infertile, and local seeds are being reduced), agricultural reliance on materials from outside (external inputs), and various other ecosystem damage, as well as human health (food safety).

“Organic agriculture requires a shift away from chemical fertilizers and pesticides and toward agroecology. It should be mentioned that there will be a transition phase of lower productivity throughout this shift. Then there will be a gradual increase in production and changes in environmental and economic improvement because, with agroecology, agricultural production will be more diverse and integrated with agricultural economic resources,” Henry explained.

Education and training for peasants, as well as the purchase of various equipment and other supplies, are critical throughout the changeover time.

“Based on SPI’s three-year experience with agroecological practices in KDP, the cost of planting rice with conventional agriculture without subsidized chemical fertilizers is Rp. 8.6 million per hectare.” Farming costs roughly IDR 7.05 million per hectare if just partially subsidized chemical fertilizers are used. Meanwhile, if organic fertilizers are used extensively, the cost per hectare can be reduced to Rp. 900 thousand,” he explained.

This contrast, according to Henry, has an impact on the cost of rice production. Peasants must pay IDR 5,050 per kilogram of conventional fertilizer, which is more than IDR 3,700 per kilogram of organic fertilizer.

“So there needs to be a policy in the form of a regulation from President Jokowi on agroecology, organic fertilizer, and the development of peasant cooperatives for production and marketing,” he added.

At the end of the discussion, President Jokowi concluded and directed that organic fertilizer policy for agroecological agriculture be created in two ways. First, organic fertilizer subsidies should be reinstated. Second, through enhancing educational activities, training, support facilities, and other infrastructure, agroecological agricultural techniques that employ community-based organic fertilizers will be expanded.

It is planned to increase the use of agroecological agriculture developed by SPI Tuban in other Indonesian regions by 2023.

[1] Minister of State Secretary, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Minister of Finance, Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Industry, Minister of State-owned Enterprises