Jakarta. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Tuesday admitted that he struggled to get Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy to have a dialogue during his peace mission to the warring countries in late June.
According to Jokowi, during the visit to the Kremlin Palace, he spent about two and a half hours speaking to Putin in person. His meeting with Zelenskyy a day prior to his Moscow trip lasted for one and a half hours.
Jokowi said he wished to create a space for dialogue between Russia and Ukraine.
“But after seeing what was happening on the ground, it was difficult to arrange a dialogue between President Putin and President Zelenskyy. That is why I turned the discussions to the food crisis," Jokowi said when addressing the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) in Jakarta on Tuesday.
During the bilateral meeting, Zelenskyy revealed that Ukraine had 22 million tons of wheat held up in its silos and an additional 55 million tons in new harvests. Putin told Jokowi that Russia had 130 million tons of wheat.
“We consume only 31 million tons of rice every year. But here [they have] 207 million tons [of wheat] unable to be shipped out,” Jokowi said while adding this had a detrimental effect on African nations who were highly dependent on Russian and Ukrainian wheat.
The Indonesian leader then compared the current FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) to those of prior food crises. FFPI averaged 140.9 points in July 2022, a significant jump from the 132.4 points during the 2012 food crisis. When the world battled with a food crisis in 2008, the FFPI reached 131.2 points — still much lower than the current figures.
Jokowi pointed out the food crisis had also caused more countries to stop their food exports. From what used to be only six, there are now 23 countries that have implemented food export bans to deal with the shortages.
"Everyone has to save their own country," Jokowi told the conference.
And at a time when other countries face food shortages, Indonesia gains recognition from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for its rice self-sufficiency and agri-food system, according to Jokowi.
"It is true we have to keep our guards up, but don't be pessimistic ... Stay optimistic because, in every difficulty, there is an opportunity," Jokowi said.
Two weeks ago, the IRRI awarded Jokowi with a commemorative plaque for achieving agri-food systems resiliency and rice sufficiency during 2019-2021. The UN FAO reported that Indonesia achieved a 90 percent self-sufficiency ratio in rice production and demand ratio from 2019 to 2021. This indicated a high level of agri-food system resiliency.