The Indonesian agriculture is still traditional, inefficient, and labor intensive so it resulted in high costs, and as a consequence, Indonesia is unable to compete with neighboring countries. Spudnik Sujono, Secretary of the Directorate General of Food Crops at the Ministry of Agriculture, stated this.
In rice cultivation, Indonesia lags far behind other countries. For example, planting in Indonesia 100% user manpower, while Thailand already uses transplanter. Indonesian farmers harvest crops manually, and the machineries used are only semi-manual thresher, while the developed countries use large harvesters.
Ironically, Indonesia as an agricultural country is not developing technology that supports in this direction. This can be seen in almost all agricultural machineries in Indonesia which are made in foreign countries with brands like Yanmar, Kubota, Donfeng, John Deer, Sengkyuand other brands. “There are also Indonesian brands, like Agrindo, but it has a foreign license. While, engineering machines of Indonesian origin are very limited. Brands, such as Pura, Gunung Biru, and unbranded products made by local craftsmen are very few compared to foreign brands,” he said.
With this condition, 30 million farm households live in traditional conditions so that productivity is not maximal, there is loss of income opportunity, and Indonesian agricultural products are unable to compete with other countries.
The problem of agricultural technology development in Indonesia is that the technology is not in demand by industrialists and technical experts in Indonesia. “Agricultural technology is considered unattractive compared to the one of other sectors. For example, research on robotics and aeronautics is considered more prestigious than tractor engineering, which is more suitable to the conditions in Indonesia.
Due to a lack of understanding of the needs of the community and business process of agricultural sector, agricultural technology is unreadable by technical experts. The problem in the development of agricultural technology is that the industries only develop accessories or implements, such as plows, and not the core, i.e. the engine, because the research and engineering of agricultural machinery is not encouraged by the government. “Currently, there is only one research institute specializing in agricultural machinery engineering, i.e. the Agricultural Mechanization Center under Agricultural Research Agency, but ideally, due to its highly technical nature, it should be under the institution that handles industry,” he said.
The focus of the development of agricultural technology today is the capability to solve labor shortage in the agricultural sector. “Today young people have left the agricultural sector. They prefer to go to the cities, and if they work in the village they prefer to work as motorcycle taxi (ojek) drivers than becoming farmers. Consequently, those who are still willing to work in the farm demand higher wages. Currently workers’ wage in the villages is relatively high, “he said.
There should be a technology that can replace manual labor and increase the prestige of labor in the agricultural sector. The use of transplanter in rice planting is to save planting time and labor up to 80%.
Other technology which is needed now is to reduce loss of yield. Manual harvesting process, which is still practiced, makes crop yields scattered. There has to be a technology to maintain the freshness and quality of crops until they reach consumers.
There should be an integrated harvesting-post harvesting machinery to reduce manual handling. For example, the use of combine harvester will reduce loss of up to 2%. The use of modern storage device is capable of maintaining the freshness of crops. “Corn from the United States and Brazil when arriving here still have good quality due to the use of modern combine harvester and silo,” he said.
Technology to increase the added value of food crops is also very necessary. The goal is to produce derivative products of high added value, such as raw materials for pharmaceutical industries.
Increase the added value of food crops is very important because Indonesia is currently exporting raw materials, but importing in the form of advanced products. For example, Indonesia exported cassava, but imported cassava in the form of starch, which is widely used by food and pharmaceutical industries. Indonesia exported cocoa beans and imported chocolate, whose price is expensive.
What should be done in the development of agricultural technology is that it must be followed by social engineering, considering the use of energy resources in the rural areas and solving problems from upstream to downstream in an industry-based technology package. (E)
Business News - September 10, 2014