July 9, 2018 / 9:04 AM / 9 months ago

Indonesia tests rice farming 'digitalisation' program to boost output

JAKARTA, July 9 (Reuters) - The Indonesian government has launched a farming “digitalisation” project in West Java province which may increase rice output by at least 20 percent, officials said on Monday.

The project is currently being tested with thousands of farmers in nine rice-producing regencies as President Joko Widodo’s administration seeks to boost domestic food production. A regency is a governmental administration region below a province.

“The goal is to transform farming, which is still quite traditional, to be more modern and to teach farmers to be agro entrepreneurs,” Wahyu Kuncoro, a deputy minister at the State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) Ministry told reporters.

Indonesia’s rice output growth has been slowing in recent years and yields have declined to 5.15 tonnes of unmilled rice per hectare in 2017, from 5.34 tonnes per hectare in 2015.

This year, the government issued import permits for 1 million tonnes of rice to help control rice prices, the country’s main food staple.

State-controlled telecommunications firm PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Telkom) has developed a digital platform which collects farmer and farm land data which will be used to speed up the process of distribution of subsidised loans for farmers and for applications for farm insurance. Digitalisation refers to using digital technologies to change the way a business functions.

The platform will be further developed to include a marketplace application where farmers can order fertilizer and pesticides online, as well as sell their products, said David Bangun, a director at Telkom.

The SOE Ministry has also set up offices in the nine regencies to train farmers in modern farming methods, as well as to facilitate the direct distribution of farming supplies and sales to state food procurement agency, Bulog.

When enough data has been collected, the digital platform can also help to predict future output, Bangun added.

“If this model is proven beneficial for the farmers, we will apply this to other rice production centers across the country,” Kuncoro said, adding that the project may also be applicable to the cultivation of other commodities.

Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy and Bernadette Christina Munthe; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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