Agriculture Minister Suswono said soybean self-sufficiency was a difficult target for the country to meet. “The target of 1.5 million tons could not be met so we have to revise it,” the minister said at the Agriculture Ministry office on Tuesday, May 13, 2014.
Suswono said the national demand for soybean currently reached two million tons whereas the national production of soybean was only 1.2 million tons. “We have no other way but importing soybean because of the inadequate domestic production,” he said.
The Agriculture Ministry is presently importing soybean from the United States, Canada, Argentina, Malaysia and Myanmar.
The minister said there were two factors hindering the country from achieving soybean self-sufficiency. The first was the increasing land conversions that ensued in the declining productivity of soybean farmers. The second was the extreme climate change resulting in uncertain harvest time for farmers.
Therefore, Setyastuti Purwanti: Striving for soybean self-sufficiency. Indonesia’s potential to become self-sufficient in soybeans and even a net exporter is the conviction of Setyastuti Purwanti, 61, a lecturer and researcher at Gadjah Mada University (UGM), Yogyakarta, who has since 1980 been developing local soybeans.
“When an exporter asked me whether I was able to make available 150 tons of yellow and black soybeans respectively per month, as a researcher I took it as a challenge to boost the productivity of Indonesian soybeans,” said the graduate of seedling technology from the UGM School of Agriculture.
That Indonesia still has to import soybeans and occasionally faces soaring domestic prices is, according to her, due to inappropriate management by policy-makers. Apparently, no concrete government measures have been taken to tackle the problem.
“Actually, Indonesia has great potential to achieve self-sufficiency in soybeans and even become an exporter. To reach this level, no expansion of soybean planting areas is needed, but there should be effective cooperation and mutual support between all relevant parties for the welfare of soybean farmers,” said Bu Tuti, as she is commonly called.
In the beginning, this meant taking black soybean samples from various parts of Indonesia like Wonosari (Yogyakarta), Kebumen, Purwokerto (Central Java) and Sumatra. After arduous examination, she found black soybeans from Purwokerto to be the best.
“Only a handful of these pure local beans were planted and they yielded 40 kilograms, which were replanted and produced 975 kg in 2003, all being grown into seedlings. As the seedlings were improving, I began to involve farmers to cooperate,” explained Bu Tuti.
Bu Tuti, who now provides guidance for soybean farmers with 20 agriculture graduates as assistants, started her cooperation with 200 farmers in Bantul and Sleman, Yogyakarta, on 33 hectares of farmland. The first harvest was reaped in 2003 at the rate of 2 tons per hectare.
“The production met factory standards of good quality, cleanliness and whole seeds, so that the entire quantity was bought by the factory cooperating with us at a price mutually agreed upon by UGM, farmers and the soybean sauce firm. The farmers were most happy,” related the recipient of the Satyalancana Karya Satya award in 2013 for her 30 years of public service from the President.
With the profitable black soybean business for farmers, who have been enjoying a high price and record production increases from around 1 ton to 2.7 tons per hectare, Bu Tuti today guides 10,000 farmers working on more than 1,600 hectares of land in Yogyakarta, Klaten (Central Java), Madiun, Ngawi, Pacitan, Ponorogo, Trenggalek and Nganjuk (East Java).
“Farmers are getting more enthusiastic and I’m sure the number of participants and their planting areas will keep growing. It’s because whatever quantity of soybeans produced will be sold at a high price mutually agreed. So the government needn’t push farmers to plant soybeans or expand their farmland. The government should only supply seedlings, guarantee a definite market and a high sale value,” she said.
Though Tuti acknowledged the large government subsidies for fertilizer and seedlings, but in her view farmers’ interest in soybean planting could be aroused by creating a definite market, offering a high price and making seedlings available.
“When these three components are in place, farmers and soybean areas will automatically appear so that self-sufficiency will be easier to achieve and even exporting will occur,” she said.
Meanwhile, Bu Tuti has also been assigned by the Directorate General of Food Crops at the Agriculture Ministry to provide assistance in the management, quality development and production of yellow soybeans in Indonesia.
For the development of yellow soybeans, she has already been preparing seedlings, farmers and land for quite some time. This year, the first planting pilot projects will launch in Yogyakarta and Central Java.
“The Yogyakarta and Central Java pilot areas will hopefully inspire farmers in other regions. As this soybean planting movement spreads and becomes systemic, I’ve set 2016 as the target for Indonesia’s soybean self-sufficiency and 2018 for soybean exports. These are my dreams and goals of my soybean development efforts in Indonesia,” she said.
Based on her experience in managing and guiding farmers of black soybeans of the Mallika variety since 2001, the same method will be applied to the improvement of yellow soybeans. Bu Tuti referred to the Tofu and Tempeh Producers’ Cooperative (Koptti) as a yellow soybean consumer and the need for the government to arrange deliberations for a mutually profitable consensus.
As a researcher, her main task is to turn out the best, highest-yielding and most pest-resistant local seedlings. “The objects of research have so far been local soybeans instead of crossbred ones. Imported soybeans can be big after being treated with bacteria. If consumers want the big ones, we have our own local Grobogan variety,” she said.
The Mallika black variety comes from Purwokerto. After the purification of their seedlings, the soybeans became a high-yielding variety and were officially recognized in 2007.
“Three have been only three high-yielding black varieties: Merapi , Cikuray , both issued by the Agriculture Ministry, and Mallika  by UGM,” she said.