“Indonesians refuse to give up rice for other food products, despite rice shortage.”
(Indonesian Investments, 2015).
Indonesian cuisine is a direct reflection on the country’s diverse culture set and traditions, with no commentary on Indonesian lifestyle complete without such a reference.
Let me rephrase.
No commentary on Indonesian food and culture would be complete without mentioning rice, white rice.
Available from <https://memecrunch.com/meme/2RY6D/have-a-rice-day>
Joviality aside, rice is one of the world’s most important staple food products, described as one of the most economically and culturally important food crops, in conjunction with its production being regarded as the single most important economic activity on the planet (IRRI, 2007). With more than 2.7 billion people world wide relying on rice as their major food source (IRRI, 2007), rice provides 21% of global human per capita energy, and 15% of per capita protein (IRRI, 2007). To contextualise this consumption, Indonesia has the largest per capita in the world, with Indonesians consuming approximately 140kg of rice per person per year (Indonesia Investments, 2015).
Nasi Putih, Javanese for ‘White Rice’.
Indonesia is the world’s third largest rice producer (Indonesia Investments, 2015). Despite this, Indonesia is still a rice importer, and simultaneously striving to solely become an export nation (Indonesian Investments, 2015). Indonesia does not have enough rice to suffice for a multitude of accounts. Firstly, Indonesian rice farmers are engaging with non-optimal production techniques, which when coupled against a backdrop of prolonged drought due to the El Nino weather phenomenon (Jakarta Post, 2015), leaves Indonesia struggling to reach its goals of rice ‘self-sufficiency’ (Indonesian Investments, 2015), for which Indonesia has been struggling to attain, continually falling below the mark. In recent years, the nation has needed to import roughly 300 million tons of rice in order to safeguard their rice reserves. Henceforth, the Indonesian government has put into place a number of measures in order to assist in reaching goals pertaining to self-sufficiency, including the introduction and stimulation of technological innovations pertinent to and in correlation with, encouraging increased agricultural production by local farmers. The increased allocation of state funds for the development of infrastructure in the agricultural sector is another measure, as is the repair and re-storement of over three million hectares of irrigation facilities (Indonesian Investments, 2015). An approach by measurable contrast, the government has also attempted to curb the consumption of rice by the Indonesian population, through the instigation, production and promotion of campaigns such as ‘One day without rice per week” (Indonesian Investments, 2015).
Rice fields, Yogyakarta
With the world expected to reach a population growth exceeding 9.6 billion in 2050 (UN, 2013), the Indonesia Chamber of Commerce and Industry has realised the significance of this, joining in partnership with small rice farmers to develop programs with the intention of increasing rice production (Indonesian Investments, 2015). The International Rice Research Institute acknowledges this challenge, cognisant of the need to increase food production to meet future food security needs. Heightened production rates however must be sustainably accomplished, equally minimising and offsetting potential negative environmental impacts, whilst providing reasonable income to those employed in the production phase.
This is me, riding through rice fields at Festival Mata Air 2016.
There is more to rice in Indonesia however, despite the impending shortage. Every May at the end of the rice harvest season, there is a Rice Festival which has been occurring for many years past. Rich in colour and tradition, villages are decorated and painted, flags hung, and small straw dolls placed around the houses in commemoration and tribute to the rice goddess, Dewi Sri (Bahrayni, 2014). Farmers offer their gratitude and praise to Dewi Sri, and as one would expect, many rice dishes are cooked. Alluding back to the rice goddess however, Dewi Sri figurines are placed in fields to protect and promote the fertility of wet rice agriculture, illustrating the cultural importance of rice production in a culture where Gods and Goddesses are revered (Indonesian Food Culinary, 2004).
From rice shortages, to innovative production and farming techniques, festivals and rice gods, it is henceforth difficult not to appreciate the importance of this humble food staple in the Indonesian culture, and its overarching infiltration into everyday Indonesian economic, political, social and cultural life.
Bahrayni, N. 2014. Harvest Festivals from around the world. Shareable. Viewed 8th April 2016, available at: http://www.shareable.net/blog/6-awesome-harvest-festivals-from-around-the-globe
United Nations. 2013. World Population projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. United Nations. Viewed 8th April, 2016, available at: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/un-report-world-population-projected-to-reach-9-6-billion-by-2050.html
Indonesian Food Culinary. 2004. Indonesian Rice. Indonesian Food Culinary. Viewed 8th April 2016, available at: http://indonesianfoodculinary.blogspot.com.au/2009/06/indonesian-rice.html
Indonesia Investments. 2015. Rice. Indonesia Investments. Viewed 8th April, 2016, available at: http://www.indonesia-investments.com/business/commodities/rice/item183
International Rice Research Institute. 2007. Rice Production Course. International Rice Research Institute. Viewed 8th April 2016, available at: http://www.knowledgebank.irri.org/ericeproduction/bodydefault.htm#Importance_of_Rice.htm
* All images on this blog have been taken by the author, except Image One which has been referenced underneath the visual.