This is an unpublished story that I wrote about seven years ago. I am publishing it in this blog for the first time for whatever it is worth. We were with a delegation of farmers on a “Lakbay Aral”.
Our first destination was the giant PT Petrokimia company, a state-owned firm which is the biggest manufacturer of the most complete array of chemical, organic and biological fertilizers.
The company is located on 450 hectares in Gresik, a town located next to Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia. The farmer-participants in the study tour were briefed on the many innovative fertilizer formulations that are produced for specific requirements of the target crops. For instance, aside from rice and corn, there are special formulations for cacao, black pepper, oil palm, sugarcane and more.
The fertilizer that is produced in the biggest quantity is called Phonska which contains 15 percent nitrogen (N), 15 percent phosphorus (P), 15 percent potassium (K) and 10 percent sulfur (S). The company produces no less than 1,700,000 metric tons of this formulation a year.
The other major formulations are SP-36 which is 95 percent phosphorus and 5 percent sulfur (1,000,000 mt per year), Ammonium Sulphate (650,000 mt), Urea (460,000 mt), Potassium sulfate (10,000 mt), NPK Kebomas (460,000 mt), Ammonium Phosphate and Rock Phosphate.
What is remarkable about PT Petrokimia is that it is also a big producer of organic and biological fertilizers. The company in cooperation with regional investors is now producing 1,700,000 metric tons of Petroganik organic fertilizer a year. The company has an active research department that is not only developing products for farm crops but also for farm animals (poultry and ruminants) as well as for fish.
The organic fertilizer is manufactured with the use of modern facilities and is packaged in sturdy sacks that are professionally designed. The organic fertilizer is claimed to be free of pathogenic bacteria. Aside from increasing soil fertility, it increases water-holding capacity and enriches the macro and micronutrients in the soil.
Petrokimia’s biofertilizer is sold under the Petro Biofertil brand. When applied to the soil, microbes readily and safely convert complex materials into simple compounds so that the nutrients are easily taken up by the plants. It contains N-fixing bacteria and phosphate solvent bacteria. It stimulates root growth and development and is claimed to increase efficiency of chemical fertilizer usage.
Gresik is a fish farming area and Petrokimia has developed a probiotic product that enables the fishpond owners to produce organic bangus and shrimps. The product is Petrofish which is claimed to stabilize the gut microflora in fish and shrimps, thus avoiding disease.
The fish and shrimp are protected from pathogenic microbes. The product reduces pollution in the pond and also increases natural feeds in the growing area. It does not only increase yield, it also increases the quality of the harvest.
Incidentally, there is a thriving business in the fishing village where they produce a lot of smoked bangus for sale through commercial establishments. The farm tour participants were able to witness the operation of a processor as well as a commercial store specializing in smoked bangus and other marine products.
The tour participants were also able to meet rice farmers, organic vegetable growers and sugarcane planters in Malang, the third largest city in Indonesia.
A cluster of 120 farmers are planting rice on 125 hectares of irrigated land two times a year in what is called Sri Rejeki project. Abdul Wahid, chief of the farmers’ group, said they plant an inbred variety that produces about 8 tons of palay per hectare in 105-120 days. The harvest is sold to the government at the equivalent of P19 per kilo.
He said that the farmer makes a profit of about P84,000 per hectare because the cost of production is the equivalent of P22,500. This cost includes the 90 kilos of rice that each farmer pays for irrigation water and 30 kilos for the community.
By the way, speaking of rice, researchers of Petrokimia have developed a technique for producing low glycemic rice which is used to maintain blood sugar level. It is suitable for dieters, diabetics and those who are overweight. It contains minerals, vitamins and high fiber which are beneficial to health.
The group also visited a very impressive showcase of high-value organic crops also in Malang. These include sweet corn, tomato, cabbage and some others. The organically grown plants were very prolific and healthy.
We learned that Indonesia is increasingly getting big in organic farm products. That’s because they are targeting the export market. The informant told us that buyers in Europe, Japan and elsewhere are taking a good look at Indonesia as a source of organic farm produce because they are veering away from Thailand where farmers are using a lot of chemical pesticides.
The Filipino farm tour participants also visited a most impressive manufacturer of 48 different food products out of camote. But that is for another story.