Local Soybeans Need Partisanship

Since the last few years, soybean is a commodity that Indonesian farmers avoid. The price is lower than imported soybeans, and the demand is less because they are considered inferior in quality.

In fact, for various products, such as tofu and tempeh, local soybeans have a better taste. At least, that was acknowledged by the Attempe brand tempe producer, Nurhayati Nirmalasari.

Attempe brand tempe producer, Nurhayati Nirmalasari.  (Photo: Private Dock)

Attempe brand tempe producer, Nurhayati Nirmalasari. (Photo: Private Dock)

“Local soybeans are much better, but rumors in the community are that local soybeans are small, ugly. The little ones do exist. Indonesia is rich in soybean varieties, some with large seeds and some with small seeds. The big seeds are for tempeh, the small ones are for tofu,” said Nurhayati in a local soybean discussion held by the Gadjah Mada Alumni Family (KAGAMA) Saturday, (24/2).

For her tempe products, Nurhayati uses a lot of Grobogan, Anjasmoro, and bio soy varieties. There are also local soybeans that are smaller in size, which are commonly used for sprouts.

Tempe with local soybean raw material is believed to be tastier and healthier.  (Photo: Courtesy/Attempe)

Tempe with local soybean raw material is believed to be tastier and healthier. (Photo: Courtesy/Attempe)

The problem is, because farmers don’t want to grow soybeans, for tempe producers like Nurhayati, finding raw materials is a struggle. Therefore, siding with local donkeys in business also demands nationalism.

“I am also concerned about this local soybean. However, we must do something for the glory of local soybeans. The quality of tempeh with local soybeans is more savory, tastier,” he said.

There are also challenges for educating farmers, said Nurhayati. He told me that he had received a shipment of local soybeans which contained quite a lot of non-soybean content, such as leftover leaves, plant branches, soil and gravel. This post-harvest process also has the potential to reduce the interest of entrepreneurs using local soybeans.

Need Breakthrough Production

On a separate occasion, a soybean expert from the UGM Faculty of Agriculture, Subejo Ph.D, said that there are many factors that trigger the soybean crisis in Indonesia today. At the global level, he said, there has been a decline in soybean production in the United States and Brazil, while on the other hand, China’s demand has increased. For example, in 2020 China imported 58 percent of the United States’ total soybean exports.

Soy expert, Faculty of Agriculture UGM, Subejo Ph. D. (Photo: Faperta UGM)

Soy expert, Faculty of Agriculture UGM, Subejo Ph. D. (Photo: Faperta UGM)

Meanwhile, from within the country, there are challenges related to local soybean production, because these commodities cannot be optimally developed in tropical countries, such as Indonesia. Therefore, domestic soybean productivity will not be able to compete with producers in America or Europe.

“The low soybean production capacity can be seen from BPS data. The highest soybean production in 2016 and 2017 was 859,653 tons and 538,728 tons, respectively. In 2018 it rose to 982,528 tons,” he said in a written presentation.

Tofu factory in Surabaya, February 2022, in the midst of soaring soybean prices in the world.  (Photo: AFP/June Kriswanto)

Tofu factory in Surabaya, February 2022, in the midst of soaring soybean prices in the world. (Photo: AFP/June Kriswanto)

Unfortunately, domestic demand for soybeans ranges from 3.4 million tons to 3.6 million tons. Every year Indonesia imports up to 2.6 million tons. For example, in 2017 total soybean imports were 2.67 million tons, of which 2.63 million tons came from the United States.

That’s why, said Subejo, Indonesia needs a breakthrough to increase soybean production.

“Innovation of soybean seed breeding that is productive, adaptive to climate change and has a good taste image is very urgent,” he said.

UGM itself has developed a black soybean seed called Mallika. This variety has high productivity, is adaptive to water shortages and is suitable for low and medium land. The campus is also innovating to increase soybean productivity through mycorrhizal techniques. This technique is able to increase root exploration by hundreds of times, resulting in better absorption of water and nutrients.

Another proposed alternative is soybean cultivation using social forestry land. Another step is as a raw material for tempeh. Incentive programs are also needed, through the provision of price subsidies, subsidies for production facilities, procurement of machine tools and the introduction of a good and efficient soybean trade system as well as counseling and assistance to farmers.

Farmer Empowerment is the Key

INAgri's Board of Trustees, Achmad Ya'kub.  (Photo: Courtesy/INAgri)

INAgri’s Board of Trustees, Achmad Ya’kub. (Photo: Courtesy/INAgri)

Subejo’s proposal is in line with the thoughts of the Board of Trustees of the Indonesian Institute of Agroecology (INAgri), Achmad Ya’kub.

“The main thing is that we must strengthen our farmer institutions, then also connect soupply chain This individual farmer becomes soupply chain strong for the industry. The problem is that we are already small, our farmers are individual, in the end it becomes expensive in logistics,” said Achmad when contacted VOA.

A worker shows soybeans at a tofu factory in Yogyakarta on February 21, 2022. (Photo: AFP/Devi Rahman)

A worker shows soybeans at a tofu factory in Yogyakarta on February 21, 2022. (Photo: AFP/Devi Rahman)

In the soybean trade system, farmers are not directly connected to the industry but through middlemen. This process then pushes down prices at the farm level. Achmad compares his condition with farmers in Taiwan who are strong in this respect. Farmers coordinate at the sub-district level, so that land management, planting and harvesting can be done economically. Processing of production uses machines that are managed together, to overcome weather constraints and maintain product quality.

“There must be a breakthrough to strengthen farmer institutions. Gather on a regional scale and according to the type of plant he grows. Make supply chain itself, so that the subsidy from the government is also on time, on the right subject and on the right object,” added Achmad.

Tofu factory in Surabaya, February 2022, in the midst of soaring soybean prices in the world.  (Photo: AFP/June Kriswanto)

Tofu factory in Surabaya, February 2022, in the midst of soaring soybean prices in the world. (Photo: AFP/June Kriswanto)

Indonesia as a member of the WTO, continued Achmat, cannot implement a strategy in terms of price. Therefore, the game must be in the form of fertilizer subsidies or technology, so that farmers want to plant soybeans.

“We are members of the WTO. Barrier tax and non-tax been stripped. We are battered in terms of quality and price. It is necessary to have a state presence there,” he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture itself in its latest official statement said it would develop 52 hectares of soybean land in 16 provinces to increase soybean production. The provinces are North Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, Lampung, Banten, West Java, Central Java, DIY, East Java, Bali, East Nusa Tenggara, South Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi and West Sulawesi. [ns/ah]