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Jul 25, 2013
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‘It will be just like rice’: Why Indonesia turns to sorghum as alternative staple food​

President Joko Widodo wants sorghum as a nutrient-rich alternative staple food which can help reduce Indonesia’s reliance on rice.


Indonesian President Joko Widodo visits a sorghum field in East Nusa Tenggara on June 2, 2022. (Photo: Presidential Secretariat Press Bureau/Laily Rachev)

26 Dec 2022 06:25AM
(Updated: 26 Dec 2022 08:57AM)

JAKARTA: Indonesian Maria Loretha used to study law at a university in East Java. But it is not her expertise in law which makes her a household name in East Flores regency in the province of East Nusa Tenggara.

It is her persistence in educating people about sorghum, a cereal plant, which earns the 54-year-old activist, the nickname ‘Mama Sorghum’.

For about 10 years, Mdm Loretha has been going from one place to another to train communities about sorghum and how to cultivate it.

"I was given the nickname Mama Sorghum in 2013 because at that time I was probably the only person nationwide who went to various places to introduce it to communities," said Mdm Loretha.

She had never known about the plant until a neighbour gave it to her in 2007.
“I personally was intrigued in preserving it because of the taste,” she said, describing the flavour as a bit nutty and sweet.

“When a neighbour gave it to me I asked her whether there were any seeds for me to plant,” said Mdm Loretha, adding however, there were not enough sorghum seeds to plant in her land of 3ha.

Maria Loretha has been dubbed 'Mama Sorghum' due to her consistency in introducing sorghum to communities. (Photo: Facebook/ Maria Loretha)

Therefore, she felt challenged to find the seeds in East Flores.

“So I started looking for the seeds from village to village. Something pushed me to keep going.
“And I found out that sorghum was still being cultivated by some farmers who lived in remote areas far away from roads and with bad electricity.”

It was not an easy task to convince others to preserve the crop, she said, as they were used to eating rice and did not see the necessity to plant and consume it.

Over time, people understand the nutritional benefits of consuming sorghum as well as the economic benefits of planting it.

Today, about 1,000 people, mostly female farmers, are involved in sorghum cultivation in about eight regencies in East Nusa Tenggara.

President Joko Widodo visited the province last June and was impressed with how locals cultivate the cereal.

He is even convinced that sorghum should be a national staple food to reduce people’s reliance on rice or wheat.

It would also reduce Indonesia’s dependence on wheat exports which have been affected by increased uncertainty due to climate change and the Ukraine war.

“We want to have lots of (food) alternatives, lots of choices that we can cultivate in our country (for the purpose of) food diversification and food ingredient alternatives.

“(So) we don't only depend on rice. Instead, we can have corn, sago and sorghum, which is our ancient crop," said Mr Widodo, who is also popularly known as Jokowi, when visiting a sorghum field recently.

In August, Jokowi instructed his ministers and relevant officials to draw up a roadmap for Indonesia’s sorghum production.

Analysts CNA spoke to believed that sorghum could be a solution to the country’s depleting rice stocks which forces the government to import.

This month, the government decided to import 200,000 tons of rice to replenish the state logistics agency (Bulog) rice stocks that have been depleted.


Sorghum is a cereal plant which is usually round and comes in a variety of colours such as white, yellow, red, brown, black and purple.

It is resilient to climate change as it can grow widely on fertile and infertile land with limited water, said Prof. Muhammad Azrai, a cereal plant expert at the Ministry of Agriculture.
“Replanting sorghum several times can even make the soil more fertile,” he added.

Mr Laksana Tri Handoko, head of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) agreed, adding that this is in stark contrast to wheat which is generally unsuitable in the tropics.

Presidential chief of staff Moeldoko, who accompanied Jokowi when he visited the sorghum field in June, predicts that the El Nino climate pattern will dominate next year which would result in drier weather conditions.

"If it's dry season, there will be fires everywhere, especially forests, and there's bound to be crop failures such as the paddy rice and corn.

"But sorghum is relatively resilient to weather conditions as it doesn't need continuous water to grow like rice."

Sorghum comes in a variety of colours. (Photo: Facebook/ Maria Loretha)

Processing sorghum requires a different technology from rice paddy because the character of the seed is very different but generally, it does not require high technology, said the head of BRIN, Mr Handoko.

From a health perspective, sorghum contains high nutritional values such as protein, carbohydrates and calcium, said Prof Azrai who is also a lecturer in agriculture at Makassar’s Hasanuddin University.

“So it is safe to consume to prevent and reduce diabetes as the number of people who have diabetes tends to increase,” he said.

Therefore, he supports the government’s move to make sorghum an alternative staple food in Indonesia.

According to Prof Azrai, the increased production of sorghum should also help Indonesia’s economy.

“If it is managed properly, it can increase the national economy because sorghum can revive the economy of rural communities.

“The prospect of sorghum-based bioenergy will also be very promising when we are able to manage and market it professionally so that nothing is wasted, especially for bioethanol, energy briquettes or biopellets as well as plywood raw materials,” he explained.

Besides, sorghum flour can also be processed into various processed foods, be it in traditional or modern processing forms.

It can even be a solution to the country’s depleting rice stocks and could help the country from having to import rice.

As more people consume sorghum, less dependent they will be on rice as their staple food, said experts.

Sorghum makes one feel full faster and for a much longer period of time compared to rice, said Prof Azrai.


Mr Handoko of BRIN notes that there are several obstacles to overcome in getting wider public adoption of the cereal as an alternative source of staple food.

“The current obstacle is that there is not yet an adequate market for sorghum consumption. This requires market education and appropriate product development,” he told CNA.
“However, sorghum flour has the potential to be used as a partial substitute for wheat, perhaps up to 15 per cent of the mixture without reducing the texture and taste of its derivative products,” he explained.

Mr Handoko said that as part of the 2024 sorghum production roadmap, BRIN is currently developing new varieties of sorghum that are suitable for specific locations in the country.
BRIN is also trying to cultivate varieties of sorghum which would be developed into flour as well as a substitute for sugarcane.

According to Mr Moeldoko, who was once the country’s military chief, it is quite possible that historically Indonesians were used to eating sorghum.

“Sorghum is carved on Borobudur temple’s relief sculptures. So that means Indonesians have been eating sorghum for a long time.

“But the question is, why is it not progressing? Because there is no ecosystem for it to develop further,” he pointed out.

Mr Moeldoko said there is no off-taker for people to rigorously plant sorghum.
“The problem is there are no off-takers. So the industry is not well-developed.

“There are some who cultivate it but it is still a small group. Hence, research about sorghum is limited unlike corn or paddy rice,” he told CNA.

For now, the agriculture ministry aims to plant 15,000 ha of sorghum this year in East Nusa Tenggara province which will be increased to about 200,000 ha by 2024, he said outlining the roadmap.

He said that the target is to plant 15,000 ha in East Nusa Tenggara province because the stunting rate due to poor nutrition is still quite high.

“The hope is that if the communities grow sorghum and there are good off-takers, it can reduce stunting and extreme poverty rates," said Mr Moeldoko.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo poses with a sorghum plant in East Nusa Tenggara on June 2, 2022. (Photo: Presidential Secretariat Press Bureau/Laily Rachev)


The government has so far been trying to educate more people about sorghum by holding festivals in Central Java and Jakarta where they hand out sorghum breakfast boxes.
It aims to hold more such events in the upcoming years, Mr Moeldoko revealed.

The government is not the only one working to introduce people to sorghum.
Jakarta-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Kehati also aspires to preserve sorghum as a food source.

“Indonesia has a rich variety of food sources. If the food source is lost, then the culture is also lost,” said Mdm Puji Sumedi, the NGO’s agriculture programme manager.

To get wider public acceptance of sorghum is one of the reasons why NGOs such as Kehati recognised the work of people like Mdm Loretha, who have shown commitment to preserving local wisdom. They gave her the Kehati Award several years ago.

The successful implementation of the government’s 2024 roadmap on sorghum cultivation, could see more individuals contributing as ‘Mama Sorghum’ in Indonesia.

For Mdm Loretha herself, she is optimistic that sorghum will be widely cultivated in her province.

“I hope East Nusa Tenggara province will become a role model where sorghum has successfully been planted, developed and consumed.
“So it will be just like rice,” she said.

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Indonesian state fertiliser firm Pupuk Kaltim plans $500 mln IPO - sources​

By Yantoultra Ngui and Scott Murdoch

SINGAPORE/SYDNEY, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Indonesian state-owned fertiliser company PT Pupuk Kalimantan Timur is planning an initial public offering (IPO) in Jakarta this year that could raise about $500 million, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

At least two banks have been tapped for the deal which will see Pupuk Kalimantan Timur's parent PT Pupuk Indonesia selling up to a 20% stake in the company, the sources told Reuters.

Pupuk Indonesia, a national company with businesses ranging from food to logistics, owns 99.99% of Pupuk Kalimantan Timur, which is also known as Pupuk Kaltim, according to its website.

IPO proceeds will be used for capacity expansion, said one of the sources. Both sources declined to be named as the matter is private.

Pupuk Kaltim and Pupuk Indonesia did not respond to requests for comment.

The planned listing comes as Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy, is targeting to raise 170 trillion rupiah ($10.89 billion) in its capital markets this year, including listings and debt instruments.

Indonesia's capital market raised about 260 trillion rupiah last year, according to Inarno Djajadi, head of capital market supervision at the Financial Services Authority. The fundraising included the IPO of tech giant PT GoTo Gojek Tokopedia GOTO.JK, which raised $1.1 billion in April.

Founded in 1977, Pupuk Kaltim started as an offshore fertiliser project managed by Indonesian state energy firm Pertamina, which subsequently handed it over to the country's ministry of industry, according to its website.

Pupuk Kaltim became a unit of Pupuk Indonesia in 2012 and is now Indonesia's biggest urea and ammonia maker.

The Kalimantan-based firm has 13 factories, including five ammonia plants with a capacity of 2.74 million tonnes a year and five urea factories producing 3.44 million tonnes per year, its website shows.

Besides Pupuk Kaltim, other companies expected to go public in Indonesia this year include two units of Pertamina - Pertamina Geothermal Energy and Pertamina Hulu Energi.

Pertamina Hulu Energi could raise up to $2 billion, sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters in December.

($1 = 15,610.0000 rupiah)

(Reporting by Yantoultra Ngui in Singapore and Scott Murdoch in Sydney; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


Pupuk Indonesia Earns IDR 19 Trillion (1,2 Billion USD) in Profit in 2022, This is the Driver​

24 minutes ago

KONTAN.CO.ID - JAKARTA. PT Pupuk Indonesia (Persero) managed to record a brilliant performance throughout 2022. The proof is that the company posted revenue of IDR 103 trillion (6.6 billion USD) with a profit of IDR 19 trillion (1.2 billion USD)


President Director of Pupuk Indonesia Bakir Pasaman said that the company received an increase in performance as a result of business transformation launched by the Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises (BUMN).

The transformation was carried out, one of which was by centralizing marketing. Centralization efforts further strengthen the ability of Pupuk Indonesia and its subsidiaries to serve and secure domestic fertilizer supplies, especially subsidized and non-subsidized fertilizers.

The centralization has also succeeded in increasing market penetration both at home and abroad for the company's commercial products, both fertilizer and non-fertilizer, as well as optimizing the company's revenue from the sector.

"We are still waiting for the audit results, but the company's revenue and profit, alhamdulillah, have increased significantly, where in 2022 we managed to achieve revenue of around IDR 103 trillion (6.6 billion USD) with a profit of approximately IDR 19 trillion (unaudited)," he said in an official statement on Monday (9/1).

Also Read: Pupuk Indonesia Aggressively Carries Out Business Transformation

He revealed that as much as 65% of revenue came from commercial and non-fertilizer products. In addition, thanks to the centralization of marketing, the company can optimize the company's sales to the commercial sector. Especially for the sale of ammonia and urea, both in terms of tonnage and optimizing the selling price.

Fertilizer sales to non-subsidized sectors such as retail consumers and corporations reached 4.08 million tons or 101% of the target and sales of non-fertilizer products reached 1.45 million tons or 130% of the 2022 target.

"We need to emphasize that we can do this while still prioritizing domestic supplies, both subsidized fertilizer needs and non-subsidized fertilizers or commercial products," he said.

Through this centralization, Pupuk Indonesia also developed a program of 1000 fertilizer kiosks for commercial and non-subsidized products to facilitate farmers' access to Pupuk Indonesia Group products.

Meanwhile, President Commissioner of Pupuk Indonesia Darmin Nasution assessed that centralization in Pupuk Indonesia has been running for almost 2.5 years. According to him, the centralization implemented has been in line with the company's strategy mandated by shareholders. He said that centralization efforts have brought significant progress to Pupuk Indonesia as a national company.

One of them is by encouraging the transformation of the company in the context of restructuring fertilizer industry subsidies.

Also Read: Pupuk Indonesia Group Records Production of 18.84 Million Tons Throughout 2022

"In the implementation of centralization, one of the optimized functions is marketing and procurement, where the holding takes a role in the implementation of the company's operations. This has an impact on improving the company's performance, especially retail and commercial sales performance in 2022," explained Darmin.

Pupuk Indonesia has five subsidiaries engaged as fertilizer producers, namely PT Petrokimia Gresik, PT Pupuk Kalimantan Timur, PT Pupuk Kujang Cikampek, PT Pupuk Sriwidjaja Palembang and PT Pupuk Iskandar Muda.


Fitch Affirms Pupuk Indonesia at 'AAA(idn)'; Outlook Stable​

Tue 24 Jan, 2023 - 12:32 AM ET

Fitch Ratings - Jakarta - 24 Jan 2023: Fitch Ratings Indonesia has affirmed the National Long-Term Rating on PT Pupuk Indonesia (Persero) (PTPI) and the rating on its outstanding rupiah-denominated bonds at 'AAA(idn)'. The Outlook is Stable.

PTPI's rating is equalised with that of its ultimate parent, the Indonesian sovereign (BBB/Stable), due to the company's very strong support score based on our Government-Related Entities (GRE) Rating Criteria. The linkage is driven by PTPI's strategic role as the government's sole agent in producing and distributing subsidised fertilisers to eligible farmers through a public-service obligation (PSO) scheme.

Fitch assesses PTPI's standalone credit profile (SCP) at 'aa-(idn)'. This reflects its leading position in Indonesia's fertiliser market, stable EBITDA margin and improving leverage. These are counterbalanced by the company's large working-capital needs to buffer subsidy payments and significant capex programme in the medium term.

'AAA' National Ratings denote the highest rating assigned by the agency in its National Rating scale for that country. This rating is assigned to issuers or obligations with the lowest expectation of default risk relative to all other issuers or obligations in the same country or monetary union.


'Very Strong' Status, Ownership and Control: PTPI is fully owned by the Indonesian government, which has considerable influence over PTPI's investment, strategic and operational decisions. All members of its board are appointed by the state through the Ministry of State Owned Enterprises.

PTPI is mandated to produce and distribute subsidised fertilisers to eligible farmers to support the government's food security programme. The pricing, volume and profit margin of PTPI's subsidised fertilisers are controlled by the state through the Ministry of Agriculture.
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