Indonesia’s anachronistic insistence on national food security

Crawford School of Public Policy | Arndt-Corden Department of Economics | Indonesia Project

Event details

Indonesia Study Group

Date & time

Wednesday 07 March 2018


Seminar Room 1, JG Crawford Building 132, Lennox Crossing, ANU


Rainer Heufers, CIPS and Arianto Patunru, Indonesia Project, Crawford Schoool, ANU.


ANU Indonesia Project
+61 2 6125 5954

The definition of food security was initially based on the notion that a country maintains access to enough food to meet dietary energy requirements. This changed when Amartya Sen showed that in general, food shortages are not a problem of availability but of accessibility for households on lower income levels. The ensuing redefinition of food security progressed from the concept of national food security to that of individual food security. While the international expert community continuously evolved the food security paradigm in the theoretical sphere, Indonesia stuck to the old paradigm as it had become a key component of the political economy. Subsequent governments including the current presidency of Joko Widodo have maintained the political objective of national food security. This has undermined individual food security, which mostly affects the lower-income groups that spend a proportionally higher amount of their income on food. In this seminar, we will argue that despite experiences during the world food crisis of 2007/08, when dramatic price increases appeared to legitimize a national self-sufficiency policy, opening up to international food trade would improve Indonesia’s individual food security significantly. We will discuss how the continued and anachronistic insistence on national food security is still the paradigm that dominates the national discourse on food trade in Indonesia. This comes at the expense of individual food security and does critical harm to lower-income households.

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