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NEW UPDATES Asean Affairs  20 March  2015  

RI, Cuba team up to develop agriculture

The Indonesian government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Republic of Cuba in the field of agriculture, underscoring both countries’ efforts to strengthen bilateral ties and support each other’s development in the sector.

In commemoration of the 55th anniversary of Cuban-Indonesian relations this year, Agriculture Ministry secretary-general Hari Priyono inked a deal with Cuban Ambassador to Indonesia Enna Viant Valdes to enable both countries to benefit from each other’s experiences.

According to Hari, the partnership aims to develop human resources, technologies and regulatory frameworks in the agriculture sector, with a focus on learning from past accomplishments, like Cuba’s competitive advantage in sugar, tobacco and biopharmaceuticals.

“On the one hand, Cuba excels in sugar production, while on the other hand, we are number one in palm oil production. Our partnership is forged on account of this,” he told reporters after the MoU signing ceremony in Jakarta on Wednesday.

“We will initiate a transfer of technologies, capacity building and joint studies aiming to benefit both countries, especially in farming and remote area development.”

Hari cited how Indonesia would be able to learn how to increase the yield of local sugarcane. “The industry is still inefficient, with such low sucrose quantity extracted from sugarcane, so we’ll explore the possibility of bringing in advanced technology from Cuba to increase the quantity,” he said.

The details of this and other collaboration will be mapped out in further discussions, Hari concluded.

According to ministry estimates, the average yield of sugarcane in Indonesia is only 7.5 percent, whereas in Cuba it reaches 12 percent. This yield impacts the efficiency of a sugar mill’s operations.

Last year, Indonesia produced only 2.58 million tons of sugar, prompting imports of 3.56 million tons to fulfill national demand. The government plans to construct 10 new sugar mills this year to increase production and reduce reliance on imports.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean island state — traditionally the world’s largest exporter of sugar — cultivates an average of more than 3 million tons of sugar per year on a smaller area of land, according to Ambassador Valdes.

Valdes said her country was updating sugar production technologies, despite the fact that national demand for sugar was met with current production levels.

She said it was beneficial for both countries to share information like this in order to boost each other’s agricultural development.

“We know that almost 40 percent of [Indonesia’s] sugar must be imported, so this is a good step [...] to share experiences and to see in the future how we can have concrete results in our cooperation,” she told The Jakarta Post.

In return, Valdes hinted at the possibility of Cuba purchasing Indonesian palm oil to fulfill demand for its vegetable oil consumption, which she said mostly comprised sunflower oil and soybean oil imported from other Latin American countries.

“I think we have an open mind for this, to see and identify the most important opportunities for both sides. We can’t [just] talk about whether we will buy this and that, but have a spectrum of discussions and [...] fix our priorities,” said the Cuban envoy.

Besides that, Valdes said that her country had recently updated its economic model, including its Investment Law. She said Cuba was open to Indonesian investors, making sure to emphasize available incentives like an eight-year tax holiday for certain sectors.

“This is a good opportunity for Indonesian businesses to go there. This can [go both] ways in the future,” she said.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More






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