Indonesian Food Company Helps Itself by Making Farmers More Efficient

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The current global economic crisis is taking place at the same time as a global food crisis. Food inflation took off at the beginning of 2011. This is having a devastating affect on countries dependent on food imports and experiencing decreasing domestic production capabilities. The least developed countries (LDCs) saw food imports rise from US $9 billion in 2002, to US $23 billion by 2008 (UNCTAD), prompting Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary general of UNCTAD, to say “the import dependence has become quite devastating.”

Garuda Food (www.garudafood.com), one of Indonesia’s leading snack food and drink manufacturers, has been boosting its own productivity by investing in improving the productivity of domestic small-scale farmers. This led to a doubling of crop purchases from peanut farmers between 2007 and 2009. By stabilising the market for peanuts and better guaranteeing income, it has attracted more people into becoming peanut farmers in the region.

This is crucial for the future of feeding the planet: we need more farmers.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country, with a population of over 238 million, spread out over a network of islands. Peanut farmers in West Nusa Tenggara (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Nusa_Tenggara) (one of Indonesia’s poorest places) are a key part of the region’s wealth. Peanuts are the area’s third largest crop after rice, maize and soybeans, and the region supplies six percent of the country’s peanut production and 10 percent of Garuda Food’s needs.

Garuda Food says investing in farmers has raised its own productivity by a third. Turning past practices on its head, this large agri-food company is supporting small-scale farmers and helping them to boost their productivity and incomes. Conventional wisdom had been to view small-scale farmers as an inefficient hold-over from the past – the quicker they were driven out of business, the better.

The Indonesian peanut farmers were using traditional farming methods and local seeds. Knowledge of more sustainable farming methods and land management techniques was poor. The farmers were also beholden to the whims of local buyers and fluctuating market prices.

Then Garuda Food stepped in. The company’s field staff offer the farmers training, and through its subsidiary PT Bumi Mekar Tani, it spreads knowledge about new agricultural practices and provides the farmers with quality seeds and farming equipment.

The company buys crops directly from the farmers, rather than from middlemen, increasing the amount the farmer makes. A premium is also paid if the farmer achieves better quality for their crop.

“We receive substantial supply from peanut farmers in NTB (West Nusa Tenggara) and we hope the arrangement will continue,” Garuda Food’s managing director Hartono Atmadja told the Enchanting Lombok website.

Garuda Food’s initiative, with support from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and AusAID, through the Australia Indonesia Partnership, has raised the productivity for 8,000 small-scale farmers by 30 percent: an income boost for the farmers of 3.9 million Indonesian rupiah (US $456) per hectare annually.

Peanut farmer H. Sajidin told the IFC (International Finance Corporation): “My farm’s productivity doubled, my income improved significantly, and I can sleep peacefully at night knowing that Garuda Food will buy my crops at agreed prices.”

Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World Food System (http://stuffedandstarved.org/drupal/frontpage), has grappled with the conundrum of how to feed a rapidly growing planet. He finds the world is not lacking in food, but distributes its bounty very poorly and wastefully, leaving a planet where some people are literally ‘stuffed’ with too much food (the well-documented global obesity crisis) and others left to starve.

He finds the solution is often local.

“It turns out that if you’re keen to make the world’s poorest people better off, it’s smarter to invest in their farms and workplaces than to send them packing to the cities,” Patel wrote recently in Foreign Policy. “In its 2008 World Development Report, the World Bank found that, indeed, investment in peasants was among the most efficient and effective ways of raising people out of poverty and hunger.”

Patel uses the example of the southern African nation of Malawi, where “according to one estimate, the marginal cost of importing a ton of food-aid maize is $400, versus $200 a ton to import it commercially, and only $50 to source it domestically using fertilizers.”

Resources

1) Emprapa: The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation’s mission is to provide feasible solutions for the sustainable development of Brazilian agribusiness through knowledge and technology generation and transfer. Website: http://www.embrapa.br/english

2) Divine Chocolate: The highly successful global chocolate brand from the Kuapa Kokoo farmers’ cooperative in Ghana, West Africa. Website: http://www.divinechocolateshop.com

3) Olam: The highly successful global food product supplier brand which got its start in Nigeria, West Africa. Website: http://www.olamonline.com

4) Insects as food: Tapping the world’s vast insect population offers many ways to supplement world food sources. Website: http://ssc.undp.org/other/e-news/newsletters/april-2008/

5) Cooperhaf: The Brazilian farmers’ cooperative Cooperhaf: Cooperativa de Habitacao dos Agricultores Familiares, has put together what it calls a “social technology”, combining housing and farm diversification to support family farmers. Website: http://www.cooperhaf.org.br

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