Tempe in Indonesia: staple food in the past, import-dependent goods today

As a kid growing up on Tempe and Tahu, I can say with high confidence and authority that they're part of Indonesian staple food, as well as unseparated part of every Indonesian family. Not only tasted great eaten alone or with sambal, they're easy to prepare, and (used to be) dead cheap.

This tempe's synonimity with the poor however, once borne a negative notion of "mental tempe" to call someone with short vision, weak will, and low self-esteem -- despite Tempe's high nutritional properties.

Fast forward to nowadays, while Tempe and Tahu are still a national favourite, some things have changed for worse:
  1. Tempe and Tahu still affordable but no longer considered as a dead cheap product
  2. Sometimes there's a shortage of Tempe and Tahu in the market, because...
  3. The price of imported soybeans is keep on rising, because...
  4. Most (if not all) soybeans used to create Tempe and Tahu, are imported from either US or Brazil
What does it mean? If you eat Tempe and Tahu regularly now, then you're one of those people that fancy imported food -- which is not a big deal though, since the rice you eat will probably came from another country as well.

Seeing the facts, then it's not surprising that a recent Food Magazine Australia article "NT farmers push for increased exports to Indonesia" wrote about Northern Territory's farmer aim of fulfilling Indonesia's import needs of soybean, especially since it still lacked behind their export of cattle:
"Last year the state exported $230 million worth of cattle, but only $6 million worth of horticulture products, ABC Rural reports.

The Northern Territory Farmers Association (NTFA) has recommended more be done to tap into the Indonesian market, in its submission to the federal government’s Northern Australia Development White Paper.

Chief executive of the NTFA, Gran Fenton said Australia needs to shift its focus into commodities that Indonesia wants, like soybeans, sugar, cotton and peanuts.

'They import an enormous amount of soybeans from the US and Brazil, [so] that's the kind of stuff we need to be connecting to,' Fenton said."
Not that I'm specifically against the NTFA plan of fulfilling Indonesia's need of imported soybeans, or sugar, cotton, and peanuts -- since we'd still need to import it from somewhere else -- my concern lies on this nation's food defense and its people: what would happen, when the import cost is continually rising, but the people's income level are not?

Not to mention the fact outlined in Indonesia: why food self-sufficiency is different from food security, that currently Indonesia is a net importer of all of its major staple food commodities, including rice, maize, cassava, soybeans and sugar, even though domestic production of each of these commodities is substantial.

Indonesia has surely went so far, from one very rich country sung in children songs, to becoming a record-breaking country in imports these days. Don't you think so? (byms)

Photo from Wikipedia: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sliced_tempeh_(cropped).jpg