The Potential of Sweet Potatoes as a Driver of the Local Economy

Besides sago, sweet potatoes is one of the staple foods for the people of Eastern Indonesia especially in Papua and West Papua. As a staple food, sweet potato is the larges commodity production in Papua.Based on data from the Ministry of Agriculture, sweet potato yields in 2014 were 411,893 tons, 446,925 tons in 2015, 408,143 tons in 2016,307,333 tons in 2017, and as many as 250,245 tons in 2018. sweet potato are produced in several districts in Papua, the largest production is in Jaya Wijaya, and Merauke occupies second position. Papua is the second largest province after West Java in the production of sweet potato. Sweet potato production in Indonesia in 2018 alone reached 1,914,244 tons and Papua holds around 13.07% of production.

One of the sweet potato production sites in Jaya Wijaya is in Wamena. The exact location is in the Baliem valley which is at an altitude of 1,5002,000 above sea level (LIPTAN, 29/10/2009). Sweet potato there is known here as hypere. They cultivate sweet potatoes traditionally from generation to generation. In the formation of their land, farmers take advantage of the hilly and rolling land to forma terrain that is perpendicular to the direction of the land’s contour.They assume that plants grown on land that are perpendicular will be sweeter. According to them, land that is parallel to the contours of the land will deposit water in the soil and be absorbed directly by the sweet potato and reduces sweetness, which they don’t like. This has become a hereditary culture that is very difficult to straighten out.

Sweet Potato Potential in Papua and West Papua

Papua Province is an area capable of producing hundreds of tons of sweet potato every year and has huge economic potential. Based on data from the Ministry of Agriculture,Papua Province has consistently been the second largest province with the highest sweet potato harvest nationally. The abundant sweet potato harvest is quite a disappointment if it only rotates in the local market. The majority of sweet potato farmers sell their harvests to the surrounding community and used as a staple food.The sweet potato harvested from Papua is not effectively used for sale in foreign markets through exports.Through the exportation of sweet potato, the economic level of the Papuan people can be enhanced.

The annual quantity of Indonesia’s sweet potato exports is basically very much lesser than the total annual much lesser than the total annual yield in Papua Province. Indonesia is able to export 1518 thousand tons of sweet potato annually, while in 2018 alone Papua was able to harvest 250 thousand tons of sweet potato. Unfortunately, the majority o sweet potato exported by Indonesia are only three types, namely cilembu, beniazuma, and purple sweet potato. Papuan sweet potato has not been able to become a superior type for export.

Papua has great potential for sweet potato exports

Although Papua has great potential for sweet potato exports, there is one point that needs to be considered.Based on data from the Ministry of Agriculture, there was a down ward trend in sweet potato harvests during 20142018. The decrease is almost 50% when the 2014 and 2018 data are compared. One of the things that can cause a decrease in Papua’s sweet potato harvest is the traditional planting pattern. The majority of Papuan people use sweet potato cultivation methods that have been taught from generation to generation. This planting pattern is not wrong, but if the orientation of sweet potato harvest is used for export, traditional planting is not considered very suitable.

sweet potato that will be exported need to be verified regularly with international standards from seed to post harvest. Traditional planting patterns have not been able to achieve this. However, replacing traditional planting patterns with international standards cannot be done directly. This can lead to potential conflict and reluctance from sweet potato farmers. One thing that can be done isto separate the two planting priorities. sweet potato to be sold in the domestic market can use traditional planting patterns. Meanwhile, sweet potato to be exported need to be separated and grown conventionally with international standards. Through these two priorities, the Papuan people can stand on two feet, first,they can meet the needs of the local market as a staple food, and second,they can benefit greatly from the export of sweet potato.

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