"Alhamdulillah (thank God), we can achieve (the target of) building 10 sugar mills. Currently, we can produce 2.5 million tons of white sugar and still import 300-500 thousand tons (to meet the needs). We have set ourselves the target of producing another one million tons. If the target can be achieved optimally, we will soon achieve self-reliance in white sugar production," he stated in Blitar, East Java, on Wednesday.
He revealed that the Agriculture Ministry will make continued efforts to encourage the construction of new sugar mills, especially in the next five years, to meet the industrial demand for sugar.
"To meet the demand for refined sugar, we must build 10 to 15 new sugar mills in five years' time. If they can be built, Indonesia will be able to achieve self-reliance in the production of both white and refined sugar," he stated.
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He admitted to several obstacles hindering development of the national sugar industry. Some parties have expressed uncertainty over the production capability of the sugarcane plantation and new sugar mills.
"In spite of the many obstacles, we must remain optimistic. For instance, somebody has criticized that the land in Bombana is not suitable, but it turns out that the land can produce 140 tons," he noted.
The ministry is also focusing on sugarcane development on plots of suboptimal land, including barren land in Bombana District, Southeast Sulawesi, and on plots of swampy land in Ogan Komering Ilir District, South Sumatra.
"We must optimally utilize the barren land that is usually difficult to cultivate. We plant sugarcane on the land. It all is possible, as we use new technology, such as drip irrigation. By applying the new technology, the production increases two folds," he explained.
He believed that the presence of the Rejoso Manis Indo sugar mill in Blitar District, East Java, can boost the economy of the local people.
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Reporter: Asmaul Chusna/Suharto
Editor: Rahmad Nasution