Ageing farmers threaten Indonesian food security

Fri Jun 10, 2011 4:32am EDT
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By Lenita Sulthani

KARAWANG, Indonesia (Reuters Life!) - Ngadiyo, a farmer in Indonesia's West Java, worries that there won't be anyone to grow rice once he retires.

His son and two daughters moved to Jakarta, the capital, several years ago, lured -- like many others -- by more stable jobs and hopes of a more modern life as the nation's economy grows. They only return at harvest time, to help Ngadiyo and neighbors in Karawang, where the average age of farmers is more than 50.

"I still hope that my children will continue to work on this rice farm," the 54-year-old, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said.

"Many youth are more interested in working in the cities."

According to the Agriculture Ministry, almost 80 percent of the nation's 140 million farmers are now aged 45 or older, compared to an average age of 40 three years ago. Officials of this vast nation are starting to worry that if the trend continues, future food supplies will be affected.

Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation, has committed itself to beefing up food security plans as a result.

It aims for self-sufficiency in rice by increasing output to 75.7 million tonnes by 2014 through improving yields and increasing crop areas in east Indonesia. The 2009 yield was around 50 million tonnes.

But the broad plan does not address one of the major issues: retention of young farmers.   Continued...