Sulaiman added that export destinations for Indonesian rice have already been determined but - for the moment - he refrained from sharing this information as central and regional governments still need to discuss this matter. However, the agriculture minister emphasized that Indonesia actually already exports organic rice to five countries, including Belgium.

Since the Suharto era (1966-1998) the goal of becoming self-sufficient in rice has been high on the government's agenda but was rarely achieved due to the combination of Indonesia's rapidly expanding population (with per capita rice consumption growing accordingly amid strong economic growth and poverty reduction) and farmers' use of non-optimal production techniques. Usually, rice shipments arrive from Thailand and Vietnam to safeguard the level of domestic rice supplies. Being the staple food of all Indonesians (including the country's millions of poor and near-poor), rising rice prices can cause great social turmoil in Southeast Asia's largest economy by pushing many of Indonesia's near-poor into full poverty.

Nearly all Indonesians eat rice everyday and therefore it is also a source of national pride to achieve rice self-sufficiency. Indonesia has the largest per capita rice consumption in the world with Indonesians consuming around 140 kilogram of rice per person per year. Besides pride, self-sufficiency in rice also has a positive impact on the country's trade balance and government expenditures. Although Sulaiman did not explain his calculation, he said Indonesia "earned" IDR 10 trillion (approx. USD $752 million) in 2016 by not importing rice.

Read more: Overview of Indonesia's Rice Sector

The world's biggest force in global rice production is China, followed by India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.

Rice Production in Indonesia:

  2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Rice Production¹ 60.3  64.4 66.4 65.4 69.1 71.3 70.9 75.4 79.2

¹ figures are in millions of unmilled tons of rice
Sources: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture