How should we view food sovereignty from especially the political position perspective? Should the current principle and value of food sovereignty being esteemed? If so, is it right for the people to complain about the high price of rice since that is a consequence of ‘closing’ the country from the opportunity to obtain rice from the foreign nations? Is it justified that for this food sovereignty we unconsciously compel farmers to produce specific variety of rice as their main commodity?

That was only the first set of questions posed by Bayu Krishnamurthi as his opening remark on Food Security Forum event by Center for Indonesia Policy Study (CIPS) and Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Along with those main questions, he posed several other food-for-thought from considering the right portion of government role in the rice sector, viewing the challenge in rice not only from the supply side but also the demand side, strengthening farmers so that their income will not only from rice production to addressing the inefficiency issue by streamlining food distribution system. Using the theme of ‘Identifying Improvements Needed within Indonesia’s Rice Value Chain’, this event delved into the current practice along with prevailing policies and regulations in Indonesia that govern rice distribution.

CIPS is an independent think tank that advocates for practical and evidence-based policy reforms. One of its research foci is food security and agriculture, especially in exposing the adverse effects of economic restrictions on community livelihoods and the environment. The event on 28 August 2019 was the first event in a series of discussions under Food Security Forum. Rice was selected as the first food commodity to be discussed knowing that this staple food is consumed by most Indonesian people, with per capita consumption higher than China, Thailand, and India. Inevitably, this makes the people, especially with low-income households, are particularly sensitive to the change of rice price.

BUMR's Presentation
BUMR’s Presentation © BUMR

One area that is often mentioned as the cause of rising rice price is its inefficient distribution chain. This event decided to have an in-depth examination of the upstream and downstream links of rice commodity. Two panels discussed two specific topics. The first panel explored the opportunity in improving rice production using investment, technology, and capacity building. The spokesperson for this first panel included representatives from Badan Usaha Milik Rakyat (BUMR) Pangan Terhubung, PT Kubota Machinery Indonesia, and House of Rice. The second panel viewed the supply chain issue from consumer’s eyes who long for a better rice distribution. The event explored the pros and cons of financing schemes, investments, and retail access points. Four practitioners spoke in this panel, from representatives from Asosiasi Pedagang Pasar Seluruh Indonesia (APPSI), Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), Indonesian Bureau of Logistics (BULOG), and Asosiasi Pengusaha Ritel Indonesia (APRINDO).

In the end, the event was closed by a change of mindset among participants about the definition of food sovereignty and the needed efforts of all relevant stakeholders – from the producers to consumers – to accommodate more efficient rice’s supply chain.