Manufacturing the Indonesian Food Crisis

Food First | 07.01.1999

Summer 1999, Vol. 21, No. 79

News of food shortages and hunger in Indonesia, reported to be caused by drought, alarmed the world in 1998 and 1999. According to the Minister of Food Affairs and Horticulture, Indonesia was the world’s biggest recipient of food aid in 1998. But in recent months news has filtered out that many agricultural communities are prospering in the midst of the crisis. In view of these conflicting reports, I led one of four reams of a fact-finding missions to Indonesia, on behalf of the South East Asia Food Security and Fair Trade Council. We found that Indonesia is not suffering a critical food shortage in the traditional sense. We did find a surreal juxtaposition of bounty and misery, caused by the well-publicized economic collapse of the world’s fourth most populous nation.

We found that Indonesia is not suffering a critical food shortage in the traditional sense.

Over 100 million Indonesians–half the country’s population–are now living below the poverty line, up from thirty million in 1997. The value of the rupiah has plunged, after falling thirty percent in just one week. In 1998 average Indonesians saw ten years of family savings wiped our by six months of currency devaluations. By July the value of the rupiah had fallen fifty percent against the U.S. dollar, pushing up prices and squeezing earnings, hitting those who could least afford it the hardest. This crisis was caused by massive outflows of speculative capital, brought on by more than a decade of pressure from the U.S., World Bank, and International Monetary Fund to open Indonesia’s financial markers to foreign investors…

Also in this issue of News & Views:

  • Food First at the Vatican
  • Two Thumbs Up Delegation to Cuba this Year
  • In the Year 2000, Food First Celebrates 25 Years of Fighting World Hunger