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Indonesia Seeks 10 Million Ton Rice Crop Increase, Suswono Says

Indonesia, the world’s third-largest rice consumer, wants to increase domestic production of the grain by 10 million metric tons, Agriculture Minister Suswono Asyraf said.

“Our farmers can produce 37 million tons, but we need much more,” Suswono said at a meeting of agriculture ministers in Berlin today. “Our target is to expand the rice production considerably, so that we can increase rice production by 10 million tons, so Indonesia will have enough rice.”

The Southeast Asian country will produce 37.3 million tons of rice on a milled basis in 2011-12, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, up from 35.5 million tons a year earlier. Imports will be 1 million tons, down from 2.78 million tons in 2010-11, the USDA forecasts.

Boosting rice production is a “very important” policy goal, Suswono said, whose comments were translated from Bahasa Indonesia. He didn’t give a time frame for increased output.

Indonesia, which gets “very strong” rainfall in the rainy season and is prone to floods, hasn’t had any flooding this season, according to Suswono. “So there hasn’t been any negative effect on food security,” he said.

The country is working to improve irrigation, reduce dependence on chemical fertilizers and is developing genetically-modified rice to boost yields as well as adapt crops to climate change, the minister said.

Rice Research

“We have to put a lot of efforts into research to improve the rice varieties and to improve the productivity,” the minister said. Indonesia has developed 200 rice varieties, with productivity that is 1 1/2 times increased, he said.

“This is very important technology, and I hope we will have better international research cooperation, especially to continue to the work on genetically modified rice varieties,” Suswono said.

Rice consumption in Indonesia is more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) a person each year, and the government is trying to shift consumers to other foods to reduce dependence on the grain, according to Suswono.

“We want to diversify consumption patterns,” Suswono said. “It’s very, very difficult actually, there’s a saying in Indonesia that if you haven’t eaten rice during the day, you haven’t eaten at all. So we need to educate our population.”

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