Indonesia seeks ways to tame hunger for food imports
* Presidential candidates champion farm land expansions
* Outgoing government struggled to meet self-sufficiency targets
* Imports of sugar, wheat and soybeans seen unlikely to fall
By Michael Taylor
JAKARTA, July 4 (Reuters) - Indonesia's two presidential candidates have pledged to increase the amount of farm land to improve self sufficiency, although previous such plans by Asia's top importer of wheat and a major buyer of other grains and edibles have often stumbled.
In the case of rice, a high-profile attempt by former autocrat Suharto to restore Indonesia's self-sufficiency in the 1990s under Central Kalimantan's Mega Rice Project on Borneo island proved disastrous due to the ill-suited peat land soil.
The rich volcanic soil on Java can support up to three rice harvests a year but land is running out on the densely populated central island of the archipelago. Indonesia plans to import at least half-a-million tonnes of rice this year.
Pawan Kumar, an analyst at Rabobank International, said rice and corn offered the best opportunity to increase production, mostly through improving yields given a scarcity of land.
"But commodities like soybeans, wheat and sugar would be more challenging," said Kumar, citing the cost of land conversion and cultivation compared to cheaper imports. Continuación...