BASF Spies Opening in Rice Goal
Jombang. German chemicals giant BASF has introduced its latest fungicide product in Jombang, East Java, as it seeks to tap Indonesia’s bid to become self-sufficient in rice production.
The company launched Seltima, its latest fungicide product to control rice blast fungus, one of the most destructive types of blights to the crop that can reduce yields by up to 50 percent.
“We hope we can reach a big market share through this product,” Leon van Mullekom, BASF’s business area manager for Southeast Asia, said on Tuesday.
“Indonesia is the first country [to get the new product], then we will introduce it to Vietnam, Central America and India.”
Indonesia is an important market for BASF for its line of agricultural and other chemical products, van Mullekom said.
The country contributed 8 to 9 percent of BASF’s 500 million euro ($530 million) crop protection business in Asia Pacific last year.
In Indonesia, BASF competes with other multinational companies, including Bayer, Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow and DuPont to provide pesticides and other chemicals for the agricultural sector.
BASF booked 420 million euros from chemical sales in 2014 from Indonesia, with agricultural protection products contributing to 10 to 15 percent of sales.
The company says it is looking forward to the government’s bid to boost domestic production of rice to meet demand from the country’s population of around 250 million people, amid challenges such as shortage of arable land and rising numbers of chemical-resistant disease and pests.
Indonesia, which produces 5.1 metric tons of rice per hectare per year, is the fourth-most-productive rice grower in the world behind Japan and China, at 6.7 tons per hectare per year, and Vietnam (5.6), according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
Indonesia produced 70.83 million tons of unhusked rice last year, down 450,000 tons from the year before, mostly due to a decrease in farmland in Java, according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).
Total harvested area shrank by 0.3 percent to 13.7 million hectares in 2014 from the year before.
Blight and pests have been blamed for the drop in productivity.
Lagimin, a farmer with half a hectare of rice paddies in Bojonegoro, about an hour’s drive from Jombang, the site of the BASF plant, says he usually harvests twice a year, producing around six to seven tons of unhusked rice each time that he sells for Rp 50 million ($3,800). But in the past two years, he says, he has barely been able to cover his costs.
“Planthoppers have damaged my crops and I can only get Rp 15 million from what I harvest,” he said.
Despite the drop in yields in the past year, the government is targeting an increase in the rice harvest this year of 5 to 10 percent.
Agriculture Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman says the target is in line with the government’s plan to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production this year, by producing at least 73.4 million tons of milled rice.
The Agriculture Ministry estimated earlier this week that domestic rice production between January and April — which typically accounts for three-fifths of the country’s total annual yield — was 32.9 million tons of unhusked rice, up 4.1 percent from the same period last year.
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Source: The Jakarta Globe