Produce farmers in Bali are besieged with problems on several fronts. First, they are suffering frequent crop failures due to pestilence infestations. Second, water supplies to crops are often disrupted by developers who cut off ancient subak water irrigation systems that have been flowing for years. Third, the price at which farmers are able to sell local agricultural produce is insufficient to cover the cost of labor and fertilizers needed to grow a crop. All these problems, and rising property taxes due to unbridled tourism development, are prompting coming generation of young Balinese to abandon any desire of pursuing careers as agriculturalists.
Adding further to the difficult state of Bali’s farmers is an obvious reluctance of hotel operators to purchase and consume produce grown by Balinese farmers.
The Bali Post quotes a keen observer of Bali’s agricultural industry, I Putu Sudiarta, sees Bali’s huge hotel sector as a potential market for farm produce grown in the island. For this to happen, however, he says the government must establish regulations that compel the tourism sector to utilize local produce.
Meanwhile, another agricultural expert from Bali’s Udayana University, Dr. IGN Alit Susanta Wirya, insists the government needs to develop a comprehensive approach to supporting agriculture. If the farmers grow produce then the government needs to work with businesses to help package and market farming production to make it more attractive to the marketplace. He also sees an urgent need for a farmers market to be established in Bali to help farmers avoid middlemen and sell their good directly to the public.
Alit Susana Wirya also outlined the need for post-harvest support from the government. The present system sees prices for agricultural products “in season” drop whenever produce comes to market in bulk, with excess production sometimes being thrown away due to the marketplace’s inability to absorb the temporary oversupply. If farmers were given support to process and preserve agricultural goods, prices would stabilize as excess production could be steered away from the markets.
Wirya and Sudiartha are both agricultural graduates from Japanese universities who see government pledges to support farmers in Bali as larger rhetorical in nature. Moreover, when agricultural programs are actually introduced by the government the two men claim such efforts are commercialized or politicized resulting in minimum impact on the welfare of the farming class.
Sudiartha urged the government to adopt a synergetic program, such as that in place in Japan. In Japan he says agriculture is highly organized to assist famers from the very beginning of the growing process until their produce is finally sold in the marketplace.
Joining the chorus, Ketut Sugiana, the secretary of the Indonesian Farming Community (HKTI), said that while much ado is made the regional government of Badung about coordination between the farming and tourism industry, there is little actual evidence of programs supporting such pronouncements. Farmers, who have good that are clearly of value and use to the tourism sector, continue to live at income levels far below those working in the tourism industry.
The secretary-general of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association for Bali (PHRI-Bali), Ferry Markus, insists his members are very responsive to creating profitable synergies between tourism and agriculture. At the same time, however, he questions the ability of farmers to produce goods of a high and consistent standard demanded by hotels.
Markus said farmers would only be able to produce high quality produce that can be used by the hotel and restaurant sector when the government is prepared to sit down with all concerned and find viable solutions. He insists that the tourism sector has never refused to use locally produced goods as such practice will always represent a cost advantage to local hotel and restaurant operators.
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