The policy of restricting food imports through tariffs or quantitative restrictions promotes the goal of food self-sufficiency, but does so at the cost of reducing the food security of the most vulnerable people
Food security is an important social objective and relying on international food markets to meet the needs of Indonesia’s growing population is precarious. The policy of restricting food imports through tariffs or quantitative restrictions promotes the goal of food self-sufficiency, but does so at the cost of reducing the food security of the most vulnerable people – the poorest net consumers of rice. These policies reduce imports through the mechanism of raising the domestic price. The poorest consumers bear the greatest burden from this policy because they are the people for whom expenditures on food form the largest proportion of their household budgets. A preferable strategy for raising self-sufficiency is to promote improved agricultural productivity. This reduces imports by raising agricultural output but does so without raising the domestic price of food and so without creating a conflict between the goals of higher levels of self-sufficiency on the one hand and food security and poverty reduction on the other. Unfortunately, Indonesia’s commitment to raising agricultural productivity has seemingly waned. Finally, Indonesia has already demonstrated that practical mechanisms can be designed for shielding poor consumers from price increases that would otherwise be harmful, by designing systems of Conditional Cash Transfers.