30 Mar 2010

Indonesian govts plan to develop a food estate in Papua is criticised

8:34 am on 30 March 2010

The Indonesian government's plan to develop a food estate in Papua has come in for heavy criticism for potentially marginalizing small farmers and threatening the environment.

The United Nations humanitarian news site, IRIN, reports that the Government hopes the 1 point 6 million hectare Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate in Merauke District will turn Indonesia into one of the world's biggest food producers, growing rice, sugar cane, soybeans and maize.

It quotes the Deputy Agriculture Minister, Bayu Krisnamurthi, the project will cost around 6 billion US dollars in the initial investment and is expected to create thousands of jobs.

He says the Government will spend millions on infrastructure, but major investors are needed before that can happen.

But NGOs have rejected the plan, saying the estate could bring more harm than benefit to the local population.

Indonesia's leading environmental group, Walhi, warns the project would amount to a land grab and cause local farmers to suffer because they would be unable to compete with major corporations.

The Indonesian Farmers' Union says leaving food provision to the private sector can hinder people's access to food because corporations are driven by profit.