Jakarta Forum Highlights Role of Plant Science in Supporting Small Farmers in Indonesia, ASEAN

CropLife Asia Makes Case at Responsible Business Forum for Sustainable Food Security in the Region

With today’s kickoff of the Responsible Business Forum on Food & Agriculture in Jakarta, CropLife Asia Executive Director Dr. Siang Hee Tan highlighted the game-changing benefits of innovative plant science technologies and the role they play in benefitting smallholder farmers in ASEAN and Indonesia.

Dr. Tan led a working group discussion panel focusing on how to improve regional smallholders’ access to finance, technology, knowledge and markets with the aim to enhance productivity, profitability, environmental stewardship across the value chain for grains.

Asia is home to 85% of the world’s 525 million smallholder farmers – and roughly 39 million of those call Indonesia home.¬†All told, Indonesia’s agricultural sector comprises almost 40% of the total labor force.

Unfortunately, although agriculture plays such a critical role in the makeup of the nation’s total workforce, the contribution the sector is making to Indonesia’s GDP is only 14%. The disparity suggests the sector’s full potential is not being realized.

At the same time, smallholder farmers in Indonesia and across ASEAN are being increasingly looked to as a key part of the solution in producing more food for a growing population.

By just 2025, an additional 60 million people are expected to be living in Southeast Asia. With less access to arable land and water as well as more pests and disease to combat, this makes the job for regional smallholder farmers that much more daunting.

With the population growing, so too is the demand for food. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, growers around the world will need to produce up to 70% more food to meet the expected needs of the population in 2050.

“Ensuring a safe, affordable and sustainable food supply here in Indonesia, the region and around the world begins with enabling and empowering our smallholder farmers – plain and simple,” said Dr. Siang Hee Tan, Executive Director of CropLife Asia.

“Producing more food with fewer resources to feed a growing planet is a 21st Century dilemma, and it requires 21st Century tools and technology. The innovations of the plant science industry are game-changing for our 525 million smallholder farmers and a key component of the solution needed to address the looming food production challenges.”

Indonesia’s smallholder farmers rely on crop protection products to prevent pests, disease and weed pressures from damaging their crops and limiting their harvests. In total, it’s estimated that 50% of the world’s food production would be lost to pests, disease and weeds if not for crop protection products.

The protection advanced pesticides provide isn’t limited to the field. They also help prolong the viable life and prevent post-harvest losses of crops while in storage.

Additionally, biotech crops increased the production of food, feed and fiber from 1996 to 2013 around the globe by 441 million tons and helped slow the advance of climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

In 2013 alone, it’s estimated that biotech crop plantings lowered carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to removing 12.4 million cars from the road for an entire year. At the same time, 90% of the roughly 18 million risk-averse farmers benefitting from biotech crops annually were small resource, poorer farmers.

A further benefit of plant science currently being realized is the water conservation it promotes by helping reduce the need for tillage. No-tillage farm techniques, where the soil remains largely or completely undisturbed, aids water conservation by helping build organic matter and ultimately improving the soil’s moisture retention.

There’s also a critical role plant science plays in specifically supporting women smallholder farmers in Indonesia and the larger region. In the developing world, a high percentage of the female labor force is involved in agriculture – across Southern Asia, the figure is an astonishing 70%.

Unfortunately, their productivity level is lower than their male counterparts due to a number of factors, including: cultural factors; lack of access to finances, training, and modern inputs. Specifically, women growers could produce 20-30% more food on their farms if they had the same access to modern crop inputs as men. This would result in the ability to feed an additional 150 million more people.

The opening session of the Responsible Business Forum on Food & Agriculture began today (Tuesday, 14 March) at 9am and is scheduled to conclude tomorrow afternoon. The two-day Forum is being held once again at the Grand Hyatt in Jakarta, bringing together key stakeholders and representatives from multiple sectors of the food and agriculture industries. – BusinessNewsAsia.com