The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) is introducing technology such as satellite imagery combined with app-based, on-the-ground checks to estimate rice production more accurately after huge discrepancies in official data. (Antara Photo/Ari Bowo Sucipto)
Central Statistics Agency Pledges Accurate Rice Data to Combat Vast Misreporting
BY :BERNADETTE CHRISTINA MUNTHE
OCTOBER 27, 2018
Jakarta. Indonesia's statistics agency is introducing technology such as satellite imagery combined with app-based, on-the-ground checks to estimate rice production more accurately after huge discrepancies in official data.
Previously, agriculture officials have admitted to routinely inflating rice harvest data to present a rosy picture to the government or win subsidies, often leading to last-minute imports once shortages became apparent.
The supply of the staple food is politically sensitive and surging prices in the past have triggered civil unrest while importing rice tends to be criticized by farmers and the opposition given self-sufficiency targets.
Under its new methodology, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) this week estimated 2018 unhusked (unprocessed) rice production at 56.5 million metric tons, far below the 83-million-ton estimate in September by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The BPS stopped publishing rice data in 2016 and has been working to improve its reliability. The head of the agency conceded that in recent decades many people had felt its data was "inaccurate."
"Now we can have future projections that are more accurate, so policy planning can be more focused and on target," BPS head Suhariyanto told reporters.
The BPS estimates processed rice output this year at 32.4 million tons, against an estimate of 48.3 million tons put forward previously by the agriculture ministry.
Suhariyanto said more accurate forecasting meant government officials would not have to "waste energy" disputing rice data. In May, Indonesia ordered an additional 500,000 tons of rice imports after state food procurement agency Bulog reported shrinking stocks. Bulog has imported 1.8 million tons of rice this year from Vietnam, Thailand and India.
Despite lower than expected output, the government is yet to decide whether Indonesia will issue additional import quotas, Chief Economy Minister Darmin Nasution said.
Darmin said a forecast surplus this year of 2.85 million tons of rice, based on estimated demand per capita last year and the current population, is much lower than in the past when the figure would reach 20 million tons.
The latest method will employ satellite imagery and ground verification to measure areas under cultivation. Officers will do on-the-ground monitoring each month, Suhariyanto said, adding that this would increase transparency.
Officers will visit more than 200,000 locations across Indonesia and input data into an Android-based app to assess the rice growth phase.
The BPS's latest calculations showed Indonesia's rice cultivation area has fallen to 7.1 million hectares this year, compared with 7.8 million hectares in a 2013 survey.
Similar methods are due to be applied to assess Indonesia's corn production next year, Suhariyanto said. Syukur Iwantoro, secretary general at the agriculture ministry, did not say why his ministry's data was so different but welcomed the "improvement" in data.
"This has been proposed since the previous administration, but only this government dared to change the methodology," he told reporters.