September 27, 2004
The lightweight Indonesian cotton
industry made headlines in 2000 when a number of
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) demanded the government
cancel its deal with U.S. based agrochemical and seed company
Monsanto to provide farmers with controversial biologically
engineered cotton seeds.
Besides raising concerns over the
potential hazard to the ecosystem, the NGOs highlighted an
interesting point: the deal showed that the government preferred
U.S. genetically modified seeds over locally-produced variety
Kanesia 7, which was produced through natural cross-breeding
rather than the genetic modification.
Four years later, however, the government started a similar
project to boost the local cotton industry. But this time, it
used Kanesia 7 and its "brother" Kanesia 8.
Ministry of Agriculture's Research and Development Agency head
Achmad Suryana said that the project, which started in January,
had been progressing well, as harvest in July showed favorable
The project provided farmers in regencies of Bantaeng,
Bulukumba, Sinjai (all in South Sulawesi) and in West Lombok in
West Nusa Tenggara with seeds produced by state-owned Research
Agency for Clove and Fiber-based Plants, based in Malang, East
The project has been carried out on some 300 hectares of land.
"In July's harvest, the seeds produced an average of two tons of
cotton fiber per hectare, which is about the same amount that
Monsanto's transgenic seeds could produce," Achmad told The
Jakarta Post on Sunday.
Achmad said that while Monsanto was very aggressive in promoting
its goods, the producer of Kanesia has maintained a low profile.
"Kanesia lacks promotion. Thus its potential remains unseen," he
He quickly added that this year Indonesia proved itself capable
of making products with the potential to compete
The controversial Monsanto transgenic project was eventually
halted in 2001, because it was reportedly "not profitable".
Transgenic technology creates higher quality seed by inserting
genes from other species. The Genetically Modified Organisms
(GMOs) have genes inserted to protect the plant from pests or to
resist a specific herbicide. Despite assurances from scientists
that the products are harmless, some doubts have been raised as
to the safety of GMOs and their effect on health and the
Separately, Indonesian Textile Association (API) cotton expert
Suripto said that the textile industry looked at the project
with great interest and hoped it could ease Indonesia's
dependence on cotton imports in the future.
The commodity was sold at Rp 2,100 per kilograms (22.83 U.S.
cents per kg) as "seed cotton" (cotton still uncleaned of seed),
while the current international price of "clean cotton" (cotton
already cleaned of seed) is 25.10 cents per kg, he said.
"The industry is interested as long as the domestic supply is
stable," Suripto told the Post and said that value-added tax
relief would be a good incentive for the industry.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Industry and Trade's director of textile
and textile articles Luky Hartini was hopeful that the project
could turn out to be a significant leap in strengthening the
domestic textile industry.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Indonesia has 100,000
hectares of potential land for growing cotton.
"Using the assumption from the project, the potential land could
produce up to 200,000 tons of cotton fiber or a near 40 percent
of the annual domestic demand of 500,000 tons," Luky said and
added that almost all domestic demand for cotton was now
fulfilled by imports as domestic supply represents less than 1
percent of the total need.
Luky went on to say that it would be quite a challenge to
encourage local manufacturers to use domestic cotton, as
importers now pay zero tariff to ship cotton into the country.
The zero-tariff policy is aimed at boosting the local textile
"We will of course provide incentives for local textile makers
that use local cotton," she said.
The government could remove value-added tax for products using
local cotton, she suggested.
Textiles, the country's top non-oil and gas export, reached
$7.03 billion last year.
Indonesia would stun everyone, if it was able to grow cotton in
the 100,000 ha of potential cotton-growing land and fulfill 40
percent of the local demand, Luky said.
The Jakarta Post