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Thursday 27th October 2016

Cut down on rice, Indonesians told

14th December 2010

The Indonesian government wants people to stop eating rice exclusively, aiming to improve public standards of health by diversifying the national diet.

fishandsoybeansIndroyono Soesilo, secretary general of the country's welfare ministry, said that the drive to diversify diets was like asking people to give up smoking.

He said there were people in Indonesia who believed they had not eaten well unless they had eaten rice.

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, and the average Indonesian eats more rice than people in Japan or China.

Less than fifty years ago, Indonesia imported all of its rice from other countries.

The country was once the world's biggest rice importer, though it now grows enough rice to supply all of its citizens.

The Indonesian government is worried about people's health, and about the security of a foodstuff that is vulnerable to destabilising weather patterns.

Andi Santoso, a 23-year-old student from Indonesia, said that he ate rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

He said he could not imagine eating anything but rice.

Soesilo said that Indonesia produced 66 other types of carbohydrates, all of which could conceivably replace rice at two of three mealtimes.

He said he urged the citizens of his country to diversify their eating habits, and especially those of children, by incorporating foods such as corn, sago, cassava, and sweet potato into their diets.

Rapid urbanisation is also a concern for the Indonesian government, since it threatens the country's arable land, as do rising sea levels.

Djati Kusuma, a tribal leader from a Javan village called Cigugur, where the soil is volcanic and fertile, said rice was life, giving people both employment and food.

Every year, villagers in Cigugur honour Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice.

Kusuma said that, during that time, people called on the protection of Dewi Sri and asked for an abundant harvest from her.

In rice-growing areas of Java, the grain is seen as having a noble place in society, and other carbohydrate sources (such as cassava) are associated with poverty.

Rice is the main staple food for about half the world's population.

Indonesia produces around 40 million tonnes of rice a year, with around 33 million tonnes needed for domestic use alone.




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