Papua food estate faces land-use tangles: Kadin

Arti Ekawati & Camelia Pasandaran

Jakarta Globe

Forest clearance by Sinar Mas in Indonesia, 2008 (Photo: Greenpeace)

The government’s plan to develop a major food estate in Merauke, Papua, may run into difficulties because confusing and overlapping land use regulations will deter investors, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry warned on Thursday.

Franky Oesman, deputy chairman of the chamber as well as a board member of agricultural conglomerate PT Sinar Mas Group, said the lack of “legal certainty” would discourage investment.

Indonesia has a number of laws and regulations on land usage, including the Forestry Law, the Spatial Management Law and the Law on Regional Autonomy. Land acquisition is often the biggest problem in getting major projects off the ground.

Rudyan Kopot, chairman of the aquaculture committee of the chamber, also known as Kadin, agreed with Franky, saying the bureaucratic process to obtain a license to use forest land was too time-consuming.

The planned Merauke food estate — a 1.6 million hectare integrated food production zone where companies will grow, process and package their products in one location — is aimed at stimulating large-scale investment in agriculture.

The project, part of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s 100-day program, will be officially launched this month and may be the first of a number of food estates in eastern Indonesia.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture Bayu Krisnamurthi said on Thursday that the first crops from the Merauke estate should be harvested in 2012.

Meanwhile, Elfian Effendi, executive director of environmental nongovernmental organization Greenomics Indonesia, said the government needed to be more transparent about the location of the food estate.

“Where is the land exactly?” he said. “Is it forest area or land belonging to the indigenous people? We don’t know.”

Elfian also questioned how the government would meet its carbon emission reduction target if it kept developing forest land.
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