Workers are seen at a Bulog rice warehouse in Medan, North Sumatra, on 28 February 28 2024. Photo by Fransisco Carolio for Antara.

Indonesians have a saying – that you’re not properly satisfied until you’ve eaten rice (belum kenyang kalau belum makan nasi). But in recent weeks the price of rice has hit record highs, meaning this daily serving of rice is becoming out of reach for some.

In 2023 an EL Niño weather pattern across Indonesia made it the hottest year on record, leading to drought conditions and impacting rice production, with delayed harvests and low yields. Since late last year rice prices have continued to climb and with Idul Fitri approaching, prices for basic foods – including rice – are spiking to historic levels.

Media reports show people queuing for hours at markets and President Joko Widodo has committed to providing 10 kilograms of rice a month to low-to-middle income households. The government claims that national rice stores are sufficient, but close observers note that cartels and collusion within the industry are also playing a part. At the same time – and an issue highlighted in the recent election campaign – over one in five Indonesian children under the age of five are affected by stunting due to poor nutrition.

What is the current state of food production and food security in Indonesia, especially when it comes to rice, and what part does the past play in policymaking about the present? Why is the rate of stunting in children and poor nutrition still at such high levels? How can Indonesia’s food policy respond?

In this week’s episode Jemma Purdey chats with Associate Professor Jamie Davidson from the Department of Political Science and the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, where he is leader of the Cluster ‘Food Politics and Society’. Jamie’s research compares the politics of rice policy in Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.

In 2024, the Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Jemma Purdey from Monash University, Tito Ambyo from RMIT, Dr Elisabeth Kramer from the University of New South Wales and Dr Jacqui Baker from Murdoch University.

Look out for a new Talking Indonesia podcast every fortnight. Catch up on previous episodes here, subscribe via Apple Podcasts or listen via your favourite podcasting app.


We acknowledge and pay respect to the Traditional Owners of the lands upon which our campuses are situated.

Phone:13 MELB (13 6352) | International: +(61 3) 9035 5511
The University of Melbourne ABN:84 002 705 224
CRICOS Provider Code:00116K (visa information)