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COVID-19 Briefing: Ensuring Rights and Accessibility to Affordable Food during Pandemic

Sandy Manoa on Unsplash 
© Sandy Manoa on Unsplash 

On March 10, 2021, Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS) held a discussion on the right to affordable food during the pandemic, let's follow the discussion below:

Based on your analysis, how was the food situation during the pandemic in the last one year and what is the challenges?

Felippa Amanta as the Head of Research at CIPS explained that from the supply side there are a lot of disruptions to the food supply chain, one of them is "Disturbed distribution" due to restrictions on mobility, because in terms of capacity, distribution has decreased resulting in delays. In March - May last year there was a food shortage. In several provinces in Indonesia, staple foods are very centralized in a few provinces, such as Java and Sumatra.

There are also disruptions from global trade, in terms of production and distribution. There are policies from other countries that give rise to protectionism, resulting in limited exports from abroad. Due to these constraints, global food prices increased rapidly and by the end of 2020 it increased sharply and reached its highest peak in December 2020 at 6% from the same period from the previous year.

During the pandemic period, food stability in Indonesia worsened, this was due to a decrease in income, while food prices tended to be stable or at a fairly high level. World Bank survey showed that 23% of households experiencing food shortages and 29% of households in Indonesia reduce their consumption of food.

Pandemic also causes an increase in the poverty rate to 27 million people, or nearly 3 million people fall into poverty because of low-income society are difficult to access nutritious food and affordable for their lives.

How does the right to food in Indonesia right now?

Felippa Amanta explained that when talking about the right to food, what needs to be understood is not only limited to availability but also about the affordability and diversity of food nutrition. Unfortunately, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2020, Indonesia's ranking fall in the food security index from 62 to 65. The question is if Indonesia can access the food, is the food nutritious? The answer is not really because our rice prices are higher than international prices. These are the things that result that Indonesia still having low consumption. Consumption of a variety of foods that is still very low, such as fruits and vegetables as well as meat.

What are the challenges for the government to provide affordable food during the pandemic?

Mr.Sahat Pasaribu as the Main Researcher of the Center for Social and Economic and Agricultural Policy, Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Indonesia, explained that the Ministry of Agriculture is trying to provide food and these efforts are continuously being developed, including during the pandemic period. Of course, there are limitations, for example, Large-Scale Social Restrictions (PSBB) that hinder distribution. Not only distribution but more about the input, how agricultural input is made available in a timely manner. It is necessary to underline the availability of production inputs so that the efforts made by our farmers can continue, this is the first part when talking about the right to food. If it is not available how to access it, how to provide it, of course with the efforts and programs developed by the Ministry of Agriculture. Logistics is a very important factor in this case. If there is a PSBB, it will prevent many of our people from accessing the food, not because it is not available but because of its limited access.

What food policies or programs that have changed during the pandemic? Is there an impact on people's access to affordable food?

Mr. Sahat said that once it was available, how to access it? Accessing means that there must be a means of paying for it, now can the public be able to access it if there is no means of payment.

There are many programs in the Ministry of Agriculture. First, when there is an emergency, for example chicken production, how can it be partnered with entrepreneurs through cold storage provided by the government.

Second, increasing food stocks as a buffer. When talking about imports, there is nothing wrong with Import, for availability it still has to be prepared or it will be difficult to provide the food. If there is no rice in the market, I am sure that social unrest will occur.

Third, market development, farmer shops, for example the government tries to develop it. Not too massive, but we still do these efforts, because these difficulties are also influenced by the risk of farming. Every time the risk of farming is beyond human ability to overcome, that's why we also develop agricultural insurance, so that farmers do not suffer, with agricultural insurance, farmers can still continue their farming so that this availability can continue.

Felippa Amanta also added that the central and regional governments provide social assistance, namely basic foodstuffs which were formerly known as Non-Cash Food Assistance (BNPT) so that people who have lost income during COVID-19 can still access food.

What are the government's strategies in increasing food security in the long term?

Mr. Sahat explained that once it is available, we will maintain food security until it reaches food sovereignty, if we reach food sovereign, the right to food does not need to be questioned again, it will be automatic, but now we are headed there.

What strategies are we currently implementing? First, the Ministry of Agriculture continues to strive to increase agricultural production, in this case agricultural extension workers in the field continue to work hard to assist farmers in increasing agricultural production.

Second, optimization of agricultural land, opening new land, extensification. Utilization of yards by planting food crops greatly helps rural households to provide food.

Third, food estate, in several provinces in Indonesia it is continues to be developed in an effort to produce the maximum possible production in order to reduce dependence on imports. However, we will see that in the next few years, everything needs a process.

Fourth, mapping food insecure areas, in order to control food supply to food insecure areas. Because of our difficult distribution and logistics, we need to know exactly how the food conditions are in various regions. Therefore, with this data, we can prioritize which ones we need to provide first so that people in rural areas, for example, can be served well.

and Fifth, striving for a healthy supply chain and an efficient agricultural trade system channel, when there are layoffs (in Indonesia it is namely PHK) in urban communities turning to rural areas, the agricultural sector is one of the most important to be invaded.

Watch the discussion on CIPS YouTube Channel below

COVID-19 Briefing: Ensuring Rights and Accessibility to Affordable Food during Pandemic 

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