Indonesia's new president targets food self-sustainability

JAKARTA - Indonesia's new president Joko Widodo said on Friday that he wanted the Southeast Asian nation to be self-sufficient in various food staples within five years.

With a rising population of more than 240 million, Indonesia's food imports fluctuate each year as eating habits change or to offset potential food inflation risks.

Indonesia will aim for self-sustainability in beef within one year, while targeting three years for rice, soybeans and corn, and four or five years for sugar, Widodo said at a business conference. He did not give details on how that would be achieved.

Widodo, who took office on Oct. 20, had previously said he wanted the country to be self-sufficient in sugar, rice and corn within four years.

Widodo's predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, introduced numerous self-sufficiency targets in 2009 after food prices soared.

But most have not been met, partly due to a lack of coordination by government ministries, red tape and corruption scandals over import quotas that caused shortages for food such as beef.

To help the agriculture sector, which accounts for about 15 per cent of GDP in Southeast Asia's largest economy, Widodo said that the construction of 11 new reservoirs would begin next year, with the aim of building 25-30 within five years.