Jakarta. Global agriculture company Monsanto is eyeing Indonesia's potential as a global exporter of corn, riding on the wave of President Joko Widodo's food self-sufficiency goals.
"Indonesian farmers can deliver self-sufficiency in corn and make the country a global exporter ... We clearly see that as potential. We heard the government talk about self sufficiency and we can see it happening in corn," Christopher Samuel, director corporate engagement for Monsanto in Asia Pacific, said in an exclusive interview with the Jakarta Globe recently.
Joko's administration has pledged several self-sufficiency goals in staple foods, such as corn, rice and beef, at the start of its administration, targeting to reach self-sufficiency by the end of his first term in 2019, although the plan has received several criticisms from experts as being too ambitious.
Samuel, on the other hand, said that the government's goals need the support of "innovative partnerships and technology" to increase the yields of its current farmers, and this is where Monsanto wants to participate.
"A progressive approach will take some bold reforms, but it can happen with existing land resources and farmers. It doesn't mean taking acres from anything else ... It's not a pipe dream. It's a reality," he said.
Indonesia produced 19 million tons of corn last year, up 3 percent from the previous year, with a total area of nearly 4 million hectares.
Still, the country's consumption reached nearly 20 million tons last year, which led to a deficit of some 941,000 tons. This year, the Agriculture Ministry targets to produce between 23 million and 25 million tons, up nearly 30 percent from last year.
With two factories in Indonesia, Monsanto has been supplying corn farmers across the archipelago since the 1970s, reaching some 830,000 corn farmers or about 10 percent of the nation's corn farmers.
The company also laid out some ground work through several partnerships in Indonesia, including the Sustainable Agriculture Landscape Partnership (SALP), a sustainability-driven partnership together with US environmental non-profit organization Conservation International and the government of West Pakpak district, North Sumatra.
"We are a company that's very good at focusing ... In India for example when we decided to bring in cotton space, India was the net importer of cotton. Within eight to nine years, India went to become the second-largest producer and exporter of cotton," Samuel said.
"When we come in, we're really focused to get on the challenges, bring in the best innovation, work with partnership and say how can we transform the country under their vision? So that's our primary responsibility [in Indonesia] — how to do that in corn."