Indonesia’s New Food Agency: No Fast Food Solutions

Indonesia’s food policy management has received a potential boost as it sets up a new National Food Agency (NFA), but vast challenges lie ahead as the NFA chief uncovers how to feed the world’s fourth most populous country in the face of growing external shocks to its food supply.

Critics of Indonesia’s food policy management have lamented its lack of coordination resulting from inconsistent policies and programs, lack of quality data, and conflicts of interest among multiple stakeholders. Rising food prices and supply shortages in several parts of the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic and external shocks that have disrupted the global food supply chain have once again challenged policy management. Indonesia’s food in the spotlight. The recent creation of the National Food Agency (NFA), based on Presidential Regulation No. 66 (2021), could be a way to overcome the complex problems plaguing this sector.

On February 21, 2022, President Joko Widodo inaugurated Arief Prasetyo Adi as head of the NFA. This agency will report directly to the President and its main mandate is to harmonize food policies and programs between different ministries and agencies. The NFA will coordinate, formulate and implement policies on food availability, price stabilization and stock management, nutrition security, diversification and security. However, the NFA faces complex challenges. In a recent online interview with the authors, Mr. Adi said that maintaining Indonesia’s food security should be possible, as long as conflicts of interest, such as “people profiting from import discrepancies” , could be managed.

There are at least three ways the NFA plans to improve food policy coordination and manage conflicts of interest, but it is likely to face difficult challenges without strong political support from the president and the participation of other stakeholders.

First, the NFA intends to improve data quality and transparency about Indonesia’s food supply. Mr Adi agrees that while it is important to prioritize domestic food production, Indonesia must “be honest about food deficits” and allow imports if necessary. The NFA is responsible for updating the food supply database through the central government’s Commodity Balance Sheet System (National System Neraca Komoditas). Besides staples like rice and sugar, the NFA has expanded the list to include other essentials like soy, eggs, and even chili peppers. This expansion of the database is carried out with line ministries, the national statistics agency and the private sector. The NFA has also developed a food stock and price monitoring system in collaboration with local governments. This consolidated data will help the NFA fine-tune policy decisions regarding the import and export of food products.

There are at least three ways the NFA plans to improve food policy coordination and manage conflicts of interest, but it is likely to face difficult challenges without strong political support from the president and the participation of other stakeholders.

Second, Mr. Adi plans to professionalize decision-making and human resources in food management. Based on Presidential Regulation No. 22 (2021), NFA staff will be drawn primarily from staff already employed in the Food Safety Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture. However, the NFA plans to increase the capacity of employees in each division to implement its tasks effectively and efficiently. Mr. Adi may be the man for the job. Coming from the private sector, he successfully reformed PT Food Station Tjipinang, a state-owned company in Jakarta, by professionalizing its business processes and human resources. Prior to his appointment as head of the NFA, he led ID Food Holding, a state-owned food holding company, which successfully consolidated seven of Indonesia’s major state-owned food companies into a single company. With a more professional decision-making process and improved human resources, the NFA can perhaps minimize conflicts of interest in the Indonesian food sector. Challenges include how some high-level positions in some food agencies or ministries are filled by political appointees with vested interests, who create policies in their favor due to limited oversight and a lack of transparency.

Third, the NFA will design a strategic plan (“Renstra” or rencana strategy) involving other stakeholders, including the private sector. Before designing this Renstra, the NFA will first align the existing roadmaps and strategic objectives of ministries and agencies working with and under the NFA. These include the Ministries of Public Enterprises, Agriculture, Commerce, ID Food Holding, Bulog (the National Logistics Agency), local public enterprises, associations and other communities. After that, NFA will develop a Renstra that encompasses the entire food supply chain from upstream to downstream. For example, the government’s program on new large-scale agricultural plantations (production-oriented) overseen by the Ministry of Defense needs to be coordinated with off-farm, post-harvest programs, including post-harvest technologies, to to minimize food waste and quality. deterioration and standardization of food products.

Furthermore, the cooking oil crisis has shown the need to include the private sector in Indonesia’s overall food management policy. As Mr. Adi mentioned, government alone “will not be able to overcome food shortages, nor should government manage food stocks independently.” The active participation and collaboration of all stakeholders is an important basis for the Indonesian government “to ensure an inclusive, resilient and sustainable food system”.

In addition to the above three strategies, the NFA plans to increase the national food stock of rice only to eleven food items within its mandate. This requires effective policy and program coordination with various stakeholders, including Bulog, which manages the national rice stock. Bulog will operate under the NFA.

The NFA will need to adapt and update its strategies and policies iteratively. Given that the current external shocks to the global food supply chain could trigger protectionist policies elsewhere, the NFA should manage and prioritize food affordability and accessibility for Indonesians over food. self-sufficiency in the short and medium term. An as-yet-unpublished World Bank study found that about a quarter of Indonesia’s 70 million households faced food shortages in October 2021, just over five percentage points more than during the pre-pandemic period, mainly due to the unaffordability of food. Fixing these issues will be the NFA’s core task and they can’t afford to make a meal out of it.


About Walter Bartholomew

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