Jakarta. The central government has encouraged palm oil farmers nationwide to plant corn across nearly one million hectares of farmland by the end of 2017, an official from the Ministry of Agriculture said on Sunday (19/03).
Encouraging the cultivation of corn across the archipelago is the latest attempt by the government to increase local production and reduce dependency on imported crops.
"For 2017, we were given a target by President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo to plant corn on one million hectares of land in use by oil palm plantations," Dedi Junaidi said, the director general of plantation marketing and processing at the agriculture ministry, as quoted by Antaranews.com.
"Planting [oil palm and corn side by side] could improve land use efficiency and increase our farmers' productivity and income," Dedi said.
He added that the government would now provide seeds and greater quantities of subsidized fertilizer to farmers who agree to participate in the program.
There are around 1.6 million independent palm oil farmers in Indonesia who own land and supply portions of their yield to larger plantation companies, according to Indonesian Palm Oil Association (Gapki).
Independent farmers own roughly 45 percent of Indonesia's estimated 11-13 million hectares of land used for cultivating palm oil, according to the agriculture ministry.
In comparison, only 3.7 million hectares of farmland in Indonesia is used to grow corn, according to data released by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS). In total, the country produced 19.6 million metric tons of corn in 2015.
Indonesia's corn imports dropped to 900,000 tons last year, compared to an annual average of 3.2 million tons in recent years, due to increased local production of the crop.
However, state officials are implementing the ambitious project cautiously in an attempt to keep the cost of local crops down. The drop in imported corn last year, for example, was coincident with an increase in wheat imports as local animal feed producers sought to substitute the former with a cheaper alternative.
In the run-up to the 2014 presidential election, Jokowi campaigned on promising to make Indonesia self-sufficient in basic staple foods such as rice, corn and beef.