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General information

  • GNI per capita at PPP$, 2011: 4,500
  • Internal renewable water resources, 2011: 2,019 km3
  • Incoming water flow, 2011: 0 km3/year
  • Main food consumed, 2009: rice, starchy roots, maize, vegetables, fruits, oil crops, fish, wheat
  • Rice consumption, 2009: 127.4 kg milled rice per person per year

Production seasons




Main, Java and South Sumatra
Main, Sulawesi
Main, Sumatra

Write-up taken from the IRRI's Rice Almanac (2013):

The Indonesian archipelago covers about 2,000 km from north to south and 5,000 km from east to west. There are more than 13,000 islands, including five of the world’s largest: Sumatra, Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo), Irian Jaya (western New Guinea), Sulawesi (Celebes), and Java.

Most of Indonesia has a moist tropical climate, with abundant rain and high temperatures. Annual rainfall ranges from 1,000 to more than 5,000 mm, with more than 90% of the country receiving an average rainfall of more than 1,500 mm. December through March are the months with the highest rainfall.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country with almost 240 million people in 2010. Because of rapid economic growth and a continuing active family planning program, population growth declined from 1.47% per annum during the late 1990s to 1.02% per annum between 2005 and 2010. The United Nations forecasts the country’s population growth rate to drop to less than 1% by 2015. The mean population density of Indonesia was 121 per km2 in 2010. Java, where nearly 60% of the population lives, is the most densely populated island in the world. The share of the population in urban areas has grown to 53.7%.

Indonesia’s economy had a huge turnaround, from a negative GDP growth of 13% and high unemployment rate of 15–20% in the aftermath of the 1997-98 financial crises to a real growth of 6.3% in 2007, and 6.5% growth in 2010. The industrial sector has the largest contribution to GDP, 47%; the service sector makes up 38%; and the agricultural sector 15%.

Indonesia is now a member of the G-20 economies. As a G-20 member, Indonesia has taken an active role in the group’s coordinated response to the global economic crisis.

The government has 141 state-owned enterprises and controls prices on several basic goods: fuel, rice, and electricity. The Ministry of National Development Planning (BAPPENAS) released a medium-term development plan targeting an average growth for the country of 6.3–6.8% for 2010–14.

Besides rice, other major crops produced in Indonesia are sugarcane, cassava, maize, sweet potato, spices, soybean, peanut, coffee, cocoa, banana, palm oil, coconut, rubber, mangoes, and oranges. The country also has an extensive variety of mineral deposits and production, including bauxite, silver, copper, nickel, gold, and coal.

Recent developments in the rice sector

Indonesia is the world’s third-largest rice producer and also one of the world’s biggest rice consumers. The country’s rice area expanded from 11.4 million ha in 1995 to 13.2 million ha in 2010, which represented 24% of the total agricultural area. Rice yield increased slightly from 4.3 t/ha in 1995 to 5 t/ha in 2010.

Rice is the most important food crop in the country. Relative to other sources, the share of per capita caloric intake from rice fell a little from 50.7% (1,260 kcal per day) to 47.6% (1,259 kcal per day) in 2009, while rice accounted for 42.9% per day of per capita protein requirements in 1995, which likewise decreased slightly to 39.6% per day in 2009.

Rice imports declined from 3.2 million t in 1995 to about 0.69 million t in 2010. There have been concerns, however, that rice imports may surge in the future due to the continuing increase in population. Annual per capita rice consumption of 127.6 kg/year in 1995 remained almost the same as in 2009 at 127.4 kg/year. IRRI estimates that Indonesia will require 38% more rice in 25 years, which means that the present average rice yield of 4.6 t/ha must increase to more than 6 t/ha to fill the gap. To avoid huge imports, most rice policies in Indonesia have been aimed at achieving rice self-sufficiency by increasing production. The government set a production target of 10 million t of annual rice surplus for 2015 and it provides fertilizer subsidies to rice farmers cultivating less than 0.5 ha of land.

Aside from the above, the Indonesian government has had two major initiatives to increase rice production:

  1. Rice transmigration scheme 2009: a revival of the Suharto-era transmigration scheme wherein large numbers of farmers from Java would be provided land on the outer islands to grow rice. In 2009, the newly appointed agriculture minister instructed the National Land Agency (BPN) to find ways to make as much as 6 million ha of suitable land available to rice farmers. (But no concrete plan had been developed or land made available as of 2012).
  2. Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) 2009: wherein the government is targeting a remote section of the province of Papua (Merauke Regency) for major commercial-scale agricultural activities, including rice, maize, sorghum, sugarcane, palm oil, timber, livestock, poultry, and fish. There is a proposed allocation of 1.2–2.5 million ha for commercial companies to produce food and energy crops with a 12-ha minimum farm size. (A land suitability study was conducted in 2008 but, as of 2010, only 500 ha of rice farms had been developed.)

A thorough review of these initiatives is needed in order to determine weaknesses/problems so that remedial measures can be applied to achieve the goals set. To ensure that prices are stabilized, Indonesia’s national logistics agency (BULOG) maintains grain stocks for the government by selling stocks when rice prices are too high or buying from farmers when prices drop below specific levels. BULOG is in charge of carrying domestic purchases of rough rice and milled rice. It is also in charge of distributing subsidized rice for poor and vulnerable people and retaining and managing the national rice reserve stock. BULOG procures around 7% of rice production and sells this at a subsidized rate.

Rice environments

Rice is grown by approximately 77% of all farmers in the country (25.9 million) under predominantly subsistence conditions. The average farm size is less than 1 ha, with the majority of the farmers cultivating landholdings of 0.1–0.5 ha. Rice production is heavily concentrated on the islands of Java and Sumatra; nearly 60% of total production emanates from Java alone. Rice is cultivated in both lowlands and uplands throughout Indonesia, with the upland crop typically being rainfed and receiving only low amounts of fertilizer. Irrigated lowland rice is both well watered and heavily fertilized. According to the Ministry of Public Works, approximately 84% of the total rice area in Indonesia in 2012 was irrigated while the remaining 16% relied on rainfall. Rice is grown year-round, with some farmers being able to grow three crops a year, but it is common to grow two rice crops a year.

Five new rice varieties were released in Indonesia in the late 2000s: Hipa-5 Ceva Hybrid, Inpago 4, Aek Sibundong, Hipa 12 SBU Hybrid, and Inpara 4. These varieties have high yield potential and/or improved resistance to pests and diseases.

Data from the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) reveal that the country’s fertilizer consumption increased enormously from 0.14 million t in 1961 to 4.47 million t in 2009. FAO recorded that about 52% of all fertilizer use in Indonesia is for rice.

Production constraints 

Indonesia is particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. In years when surface-water temperatures rise substantially in the western Pacific Ocean, signaling an El Niño event, rice production suffers a serious shortfall, with most of the effects coming from a reduction in rice area planted (as opposed to lower yields). The reduction in area occurs even in systems that are usually irrigated, as lower rainfall leads to a reduced availability of irrigation water.

In upland rice areas, erosion is a serious problem because on steep slopes the fields are neither bunded nor terraced. This can cause serious sedimentation problems in lowland irrigation systems. Alley cropping as well as terracing have been introduced in some areas to reduce these problems. Upland soils are also more weathered and leached, leading to problems of aluminum toxicity and phosphorus deficiency that combine to reduce yields. Soil acidity is serious in tidal swamps because of acid-sulfate soils. These are accompanied by iron toxicity as well as some deficiencies of phosphorus and micronutrients.

Other constraints to rice production are:

  • Annual loss of paddy land due to land conversion to nonagricultural use (commercial, industrial, urban), estimated at about 100,000 ha per year.
  • Greater population pressure on every available hectare in the major rice-growing areas and decreasing average farm size due to traditional inheritance practices.
  • Low budget for irrigation infrastructure development and repair, both centrally and provincially.
  • Inadequate capital for poor farmers.
  • Slow varietal replacement and slow uptake of high-yielding varieties.
  • Inadequate number of highly qualified and educated crop extension and pest management officers, and lack of performance incentives for government personnel who implement major agricultural programs.

Yield growth slowed by about 0.5% per year between 1990 and 2010 and this is causing great concern. Likewise, growth in rice area weakened from 2% per year in 1960-98 to less than a 0.1% increase per year in 1999-2010. Both stagnating growth trends threaten the capability of local producers to supply enough rice to domestic markets in the coming years.

Production opportunities

Indonesia has developed a cadre of researchers capable of undertaking rice research and collaborating with colleagues in other countries. The Indonesian Center for Rice Research (ICRR), formerly the Research Institute for Rice (RIR), located in Sukamandi, West Java, is the main institute conducting biophysical rice research. Some trials and assessments on rice are also conducted by the regional institute of the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology (AIAT) at the provincial level. The Center for Agro-Socio-Economic Research (CASER), located in Bogor, has a long tradition of conducting socioeconomic research on rice and the broad agricultural sector.

Together with all concerned institutions, the government should exert every effort to develop more rice varieties that are high-yielding, disease-resistant, and tolerant of drought and soil toxicities; and continue the development of improved nutrient management strategies.
In addition, extension personnel need to be mobilized to promote and disseminate the new varieties to prevent or overcome stagnation of rice production. Performance incentives could be given to the government’s extension staff.

Source: FAO’s FAOSTAT database online and AQUASTAT database online, as of September 2012.

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If you want to learn more, please read the Rice Almanac. You can purchase it on Kindle or download for free as a PDF.

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