JAKARTA, NETRALNEWS.COM - Various regions have begun actively planting maize through an intercropping system with palm oil and rubber plantations to support the government's vision of making Indonesia self-sufficient in maize production in 2018.
This year, the government plans to open three million hectares of new maize plantations of which about one million hectares will be developed on palm oil plantations through the intercropping system.
The Agriculture Ministry has set a target to integrate the planting of maize and palm oil in one million hectares of plantation areas across the country this year. With the additional three million hectares of new maize plantations, the country's corn plantation acreage will increase to 6.2 million hectares.
"For this year, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has given us a target to plant maize in one million hectares of palm oil plantations," Dedi Junaedi, the director general of Processing and Marketing of Plantation Products of the Agriculture Ministry, stated in Kuala Pembuang, Central Kalimantan, on Sunday.
The director general was on a visit to Baung Village, Seruyan Hilir Sub-district, Seruyan District, Central Kalimantan, to launch the maize intercrop system campaign. He said the program to integrate the planting of maize and palm oil offers numerous benefits for the farmers by efficiently using the land.
Farmers can also benefit from the waiting period of up to three to four years before the palm oil plantations begin bearing the fruits during which time they could obtain an additional income by planting maize. "The production can increase, and the farmers' income will also rise," he noted.
The same also occurs in the system in which rubber is intercropped with maize. While waiting until the rubber can be tapped and produced, farmers can plant maize and enjoy the crop yields.
Similar to palm oil trees, rubber plants can generally be tapped only after about four years. During this period, farmers can plant and harvest maize once in three months. This will offer benefits to the farmers.
By implementing the intercropping program, the land cultivation process can be made more efficient, as farmers do not need to use grass poison. According to Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman, farmers do not need to harbor concerns about marketing maize, as their produce will be purchased by the state-owned logistics board (Bulog).
Hence, various regions, such as the provinces of Bengkulu, South Kalimantan, and Central Kalimantan, have been actively cultivating maize, including the intercropping of maize with palm oil. In South Kalimantan, the central government has assigned Tanah Laut District as a national maize production barn for its success in increasing its production of crop yields.
"Tanah Laut District's maize production accounted for 60 percent of the total produce of South Kalimantan," Tanah Laut District Head Bambang Alamsyah stated last Saturday.
The productivity per hectare of maize in Tanah Laut has increased from earlier six tons to eight tons. Tanah Laut's maize production had accounted for 60 percent of South Kalimantan's production, which reached 198 thousand tons in 2016.
Meanwhile, in Central Kalimantan, particularly in Seruyan District, maize was intercropped with palm oil in 500 hectares. Seruyan District Head Sudarsono said such plantations were scattered across the villages of Baung, Jahitan, Muara Dua, and Telaga Pulang. Apart from them, the planting of maize and coconut were being integrated in the village of Pematang Panjang and Halimaun Jaya.
"We have 200 hectares of integrated maize-coconut plantations being cultivated by about 156 families of farmers," Sudarsono revealed. The regional government of Mukomuko District, Bengkulu Province, through the province's agriculture service office, is also ready to implement the integrated maize-palm oil plantation program.
"We are preparing 100 hectares of palm oil plantations to be cultivated along with maize using the intercropping system, pending the distribution of seeds from the provincial government," Wahyu Hidayat, head of Mukomuko's Agriculture Service, stated.
The provincial government will provide maize seeds from Bengkulu's Seed Quality, Supervision, and Assessment Office to assist the development of the integrated maize-palm oil plantations in Seruyan District.
Indonesia's maize production has been increasing over the past several years. In 2014, production had reached 19.03 million tons, up 2.81 percent from 18.5 million tons in 2013. In 2015, maize production was recorded at about 20.6 million tons, 8.25 percent more than in 2014. For 2017, the government has set a target of producing some 25.2 million tons.
According to Planning Bureau Chief of the Agriculture Ministry Kasdi Subagyo, Indonesia is targeting to become self-sufficient in corn in 2018 and stop imports of the commodity. However, to stop maize imports this year, the government has to achieve a production of about 25.2 million tons.
"We are in a position to become a maize barn in 2018 but will expedite efforts to achieve the target in 2017 itself. We are optimistic since production in 2016 had touched 23.2 million tons," Subagyo was quoted as saying by detikFinance online news portal last month.
The increase in maize production is inseparable from the expansion of its plantations in several corn producing regions. The target is to add three million hectares of new plantations by the end of 2017. On paper, about three million hectares of additional plantations should boost production by about 15 million tons.
"We will raise the acreage by three million hectares this year, of which one million hectare will be an integrated plantation of palm oil and rubber plants. If one hectare produces 5.3 tons, there will be additional corn production of 15 million tons," Subagyo informed.
The intercrop plantation program is being implemented to tackle the problem of land shortage. Minister Sulaiman said his ministry is currently targeting an area of one million hectares of land across the country for intercrop plantations of maize. The intercrop plantations will be developed in Sumatra (South Sumatra), Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Java.