Tuesday, September 16, 2008

North Penajam Paser regency aims to become agribusiness hub

Nurni Sulaiman , The Jakarta Post , North Penajam Paser | Mon, 09/08/2008 10:55 AM | The Archipelago

North Penajam Paser, bordering Paser regency and the city of Balikpapan, is still in its infancy compared to 13 other regencies in East Kalimantan, excluding Tana Tidung.

Gaining autonomy status from Paser on April 10, 2002, it became the province's 13th regency, encompassing four districts -- Penajam, Waru, Babulu and Sepaku -- and 47 villages.

Since July 30, it has been led by Regent Andi Harahap and Vice Regent Mustaqim M.Z., who have been committed to improving a community-based economy in order to transform their jurisdiction into an agribusiness hub for East Kalimantan.

As part of their community-based approach, the regency administration has assisted farmers for the past four years, including providing 8,000 hectares to residents in 2004 for oil palm cultivation.

The regency is also concentrating on cultivating a range of crops grown in irrigated as well as dry farmland, achieving self-sufficiency with respect to rice and food production since 2006, thanks to a suitable climate and fertile soil.

"A majority of the people in North Penajam Paser make a living as farmers. We will revitalize the agricultural sector as sustainable so as to create jobs to spur economic growth. We plan to develop the regency into a community-based agribusiness center," Mustaqim told The Jakarta Post at his office recently.

North Penajam Paser, spanning 3,333 square kilometers, comprises nearly 302,740 hectares of dry farmland and 30,563 ha of irrigated farmland spread across four districts.

Of those, some 11,550 ha yielded around 50,400 tons of unhusked rice -- equivalent to 37,800 tons of processed rice -- during the 2004 planting season.

As of August 2007, the regency's population was around 131,000 with a total rice demand of 14,556 tons, leaving it with a surplus of 23,244 tons stockpiled at the local logistics agency.

Rice distribution at the farm level, however, has not been well managed thus far, as most farmers sell their harvests directly to local markets and middlemen from Banjarmasin at low prices.

Mustaqim promises to address the issue.

"North Penajam Paser is located along the main Trans-Kalimantan highway connecting many cities. We will capitalize on its strategic position to improve crop distribution. Not only will we become a regional food production center, but I'm positive we can become a national food production center if we optimize the vast potential farmland available," Mustaqim said.

Among the commodities currently being developed are rice, maize, soybean, chili, rambutan, pepper, durian and banana, in addition to prime potentials such as melon, watermelon and vegetables.

The regency is also home to a unique and aromatic fruit called wanyi, not found in other areas.

The North Penajam Paser administration has embarked on a sustainable program of distributing 2,000 hectares of farmland to farmers. Yields from oil palm, its prime commodity, reached 85,000 tons as of early this year.

"We will continue what we have achieved so far in the agricultural sector and keep on improving. We also intend to assist farmers by providing crop seedlings, egg-laying chickens and ducks as well as fish hatchlings. The main thing is that we will concentrate on community-based economic activities," Mustaqim said.

North Penajam Paser has set more than Rp 52 billion (US$5.59 million) for agriculture sector out of its 2008 budget of some Rp 1 trillion.

Head of the Regional Development Planning Board, Ibrahim, said Rp 22 billion is earmarked for agriculture and animal husbandry, Rp 25 billion for forestry and plantation, and Rp 5 billion for the commnity empowerment national program.

Its 2007 regional generated income and balanced funds stood at Rp 56 billion (approximately US$6.2 million) and Rp 450 billion, respectively, the largest portion of which came from tax and tariffs -- thanks, in part, to a ferry linking Balikpapan and other cities in Kalimantan.

The main highway traversing the regency -- part of the Trans-Kalimantan highway -- is bustling with traffic from Samarinda and Balikpapan heading to Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan and Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan.

The coastal area in Penajam district has great potential to become an integrated agricultural center, owing to its tourist attractions, including the Tanjung Jumlai beach and the Gugusan Pasir Gusung resort.

"With the Rice Agribusiness Central Program, we will optimize available wasteland for the benefit of the community by working together with the local logistics agency, PT PKT and Mulawarman University in Samarinda. The program serves as a pilot project for land utility focusing on East Kalimantan," Mustaqim added.

To intensify productivity of agricultural methods and harvests as well as rice processing, North Penajam Paser is working with the provincial logistics agency to establish a rice mill equipped with a dryer. The mill is located in Babulu district's La Bangka village with a processing capacity of two tons per hour.

Aside from the agricultural and plantation sectors, the regency is also potentially rich in the forestry, fishery, livestock, oil and gas and tourism sectors, including Jumlai Beach, Kwangan Island and the deer breeding ground in Waru district.


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