“Indonesians refuse to give up rice for other food products, despite rice shortage.”

 (Indonesian Investments, 2015).

Indonesian cuisine is a direct reflection on the country’s diverse culture set and traditions, with no commentary on Indonesian lifestyle complete without such a reference.

Let me rephrase.

No commentary on Indonesian food and culture would be complete without mentioning rice, white rice.



Available from <https://memecrunch.com/meme/2RY6D/have-a-rice-day&gt;

Joviality aside, rice is one of the world’s most important staple food products,  described as one of the most economically and culturally important food crops, in conjunction with its production being regarded as the single most important economic activity on the planet (IRRI, 2007).  With more than 2.7 billion people world wide relying on rice as their major food source (IRRI, 2007), rice provides 21% of global human per capita energy, and 15% of per capita protein (IRRI, 2007).  To contextualise this consumption, Indonesia has the largest per capita in the world, with Indonesians consuming approximately 140kg of rice per person per year (Indonesia Investments, 2015).

Nasi Putih, Javanese for ‘White Rice’.

Indonesia is the world’s third largest rice producer (Indonesia Investments, 2015).  Despite this, Indonesia is still a rice importer, and simultaneously striving to solely become an export nation (Indonesian Investments, 2015).  Indonesia does not have enough rice to suffice for a multitude of accounts.  Firstly, Indonesian rice farmers are engaging with non-optimal production techniques, which when coupled against a backdrop of prolonged drought due to the El Nino weather phenomenon (Jakarta Post, 2015), leaves Indonesia struggling to reach its goals of rice ‘self-sufficiency’ (Indonesian Investments, 2015), for which Indonesia has been struggling to attain, continually falling below the mark.  In recent years, the nation has needed to import roughly 300 million tons of rice in order to safeguard their rice reserves.   Henceforth, the Indonesian government has put into place a number of measures in order to assist in reaching goals pertaining to self-sufficiency, including the introduction and stimulation of technological innovations pertinent to and in correlation with, encouraging increased agricultural production by local farmers.  The increased allocation of state funds for the development of infrastructure in the agricultural sector is another measure, as is the repair and re-storement of over three million hectares of irrigation facilities (Indonesian Investments, 2015).  An approach by measurable contrast, the government has also attempted to curb the consumption of rice by the Indonesian population, through the instigation, production and promotion of campaigns such as ‘One day without rice per week” (Indonesian Investments, 2015).

rice fields

Rice fields, Yogyakarta


With the world expected to reach a population growth exceeding 9.6 billion in 2050 (UN, 2013), the Indonesia Chamber of Commerce and Industry has realised the significance of this, joining in partnership with small rice farmers to develop programs with the intention of increasing rice production (Indonesian Investments, 2015).     The International Rice Research Institute acknowledges this challenge,  cognisant of the need to increase food production to meet future food security needs.  Heightened production rates however must be sustainably accomplished, equally minimising and offsetting potential negative environmental impacts, whilst providing reasonable income to those employed in the production phase.

This is me, riding through rice fields at Festival Mata Air 2016.

There is more to rice in Indonesia however, despite the impending shortage.   Every May at the end of the rice harvest season, there is a Rice Festival which has been occurring for many years past.  Rich in colour and tradition, villages are decorated and painted, flags hung, and small straw dolls placed around the houses in commemoration and tribute to the rice goddess, Dewi Sri (Bahrayni, 2014).   Farmers offer their gratitude and praise to Dewi Sri, and as one would expect, many rice dishes are cooked.   Alluding back to the rice goddess however, Dewi Sri figurines are placed in fields to protect and promote the fertility of wet rice agriculture, illustrating the cultural importance of rice production in a culture where Gods and Goddesses are revered (Indonesian Food Culinary, 2004).

From rice shortages, to innovative production and farming techniques, festivals and rice gods, it is henceforth difficult not to appreciate the importance of this humble food staple in the Indonesian culture, and its overarching infiltration into everyday Indonesian economic, political, social and cultural life.


Bahrayni, N. 2014. Harvest Festivals from around the world. Shareable. Viewed 8th April 2016, available at: http://www.shareable.net/blog/6-awesome-harvest-festivals-from-around-the-globe

United Nations. 2013. World Population projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. United Nations. Viewed 8th April, 2016, available at: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/un-report-world-population-projected-to-reach-9-6-billion-by-2050.html

Indonesian Food Culinary. 2004. Indonesian Rice. Indonesian Food Culinary. Viewed 8th April 2016, available at:  http://indonesianfoodculinary.blogspot.com.au/2009/06/indonesian-rice.html

Indonesia Investments. 2015. Rice. Indonesia Investments. Viewed 8th April, 2016, available at: http://www.indonesia-investments.com/business/commodities/rice/item183

International Rice Research Institute. 2007. Rice Production Course. International Rice Research Institute. Viewed 8th April 2016, available at: http://www.knowledgebank.irri.org/ericeproduction/bodydefault.htm#Importance_of_Rice.htm

* All images on this blog have been taken by the author, except Image One which has been referenced underneath the visual. 



5 thoughts on “RICE RICE BABY [POST D]

  1. Of course you wrote about rice hahaha! Loved reading all those facts, I was quite surprised to read that they have to import so much in order to keep up with the demand! I assumed Indonesia had such a high rate of consumption due to the access and abundance of rice available (I also assumed this due to the amount of fields we saw.) For this reason, if they are importing for the demand of rice, I’m now quite intrigued on the health factors of white rice as well… maybe for blog post E 😉 Nasi putih forever ❤

  2. Interesting piece on rice agriculture in Indonesia Emma. I’d be interested to see what the success rate for ‘One day without rice per week’ was in terms of both conformity to the idea and how it affects their journey to becoming an export nation.

  3. The amount of rice these Indonesians consume daily is almost dangerous for their health. So its very interesting that you mentioned the ‘One day without rice per week’ campaign. Although a great initiative, I think that Indonesia lacks alternative staple foods meaning the government would need to introduce new foods that contain the same nutrients. However, considering the cultural attachment that the people already have to rice, I’d say that that’s highly unlikely. As the Indonesians say “if you haven’t had rice, you haven’t eaten!”

  4. Here’s a little fun fact I found about rice in Indonesia:
    Despite rice being a symbol of sustenance and bounty, there is one interesting negative effect that Indonesians believe to be true: that is it the main reason why ‘many young children has rotting and pitted teeth’.They strongly believe that this is the result of a childhood eating habit where they would hold the rice between their upper lip against their teeth, and that the natural sugar of rice attacks the dental enamel.
    (Info from Culture Shock! Indonesia, pg 61)

    *Not sure if this is scientifically proven*

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