Toward a Sustainable Food Consumption in Indonesia

Toward a Sustainable Food Consumption in Indonesia

Published: 2022.11.21
Accepted: 2022.11.18
Research Center for Behavioral and Circular Economics, National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), Jakarta, Indonesia
Department of Community Nutrition, Faculty of Human Ecology, IPB University, Bogor, Indonesia
Senior Agricultural Economist and Research Professor
Research Center for Behavioral and Circular Economy, National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), Indonesia


The sustainability of the next generation's ability to have access to enough food and a good standard of living will be put at risk if current patterns of food production and consumption are retained. The conflict of interest between agricultural and non-agricultural land use will be affected by positive population growth. Economic growth, globalization, and industrialization may change how people live and eat. In particular, among the wealthy, the pattern and behavior of food consumption are less diverse and dominated by animal protein. On the other hand, climate change and environment issues reduce the quantity and quality of natural resources, and make it more difficult to produce food in the future. The Indonesian MyPlate Concept should therefore be used to guide changes in eating habits and behavior. To support a sustainable food consumption, effective policy support is required. The foundation of food production should be a sustainable agricultural system.

Keyword: Environmentally-friendly, dietary diversity, meat consumption, vegetables and fruits, roots and tubers


In the framework of sustainable consumption and production (SCP), which is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (Number 12), sustainable food consumption is a crucial and global issue. The SCP aims to control the patterns of food production and consumption while ensuring that the ecosystem, especially natural resources, can be utilized by future generations. The direction of economic expansion and the rise in food production is determined by taking conservation efforts into account. 

The issue of feeding the world's population, especially among Indonesians, is further complicated by multi-challenges on agricultural development. In accordance with population growth, industrial development, and an increase in the flow of urbanization, land use competition is becoming highly intense. In 2050, it is predicted that there will be 9.73 billion people on Earth. On the other hand, difficulties with food production are on the rise due to land degradation in both quantity and quality, water scarcity, and climate change. According to FAO (2017), moderate and severe levels of degradation are present in 33% of all agricultural fields worldwide. There may be around 4.9 billion hectares increase in agricultural land, but there would be a 100 billion hectare decrease in forest land. Up to 2045, it is predicted that additional forest area will be required to add 100 billion hectares of agricultural land. A total of 48.2 million hectares, or nearly 25% of the country's land, are expected to be degraded in Indonesia. Due to the growth of abandoned land and the decline in dry land production, the severity of land degradation has also increased (Pasandaran, 2015).

The most severely impacted sector by climate change is agriculture, which could also introduce new challenges to the sustainability of food production. Serious effects of climate change include altered rainfall patterns, an increase in extreme weather events like floods and droughts, as well as an increase in air temperature and sea level. Food crops, which are annual plants, are particularly vulnerable to these changes since they will intensify plant pest damage, result in crop abandonment or failure, and have the potential to lower the agricultural output index. Finally, it lowers production and product quality. These changes will make it difficult to provide food, particularly from domestic producers, without political assistance.

The Indonesian government continuously tries to meet the country's food needs through enhancing national food security by domestic production growth, trade control, and food distribution. Food availability, food access, and food utilization—commonly known as food consumption—make up the three subsystems that constitute food security.

Since consumption activity is directly tied to food access and food provision, this system of food security can serve as a starting point for the development of a sustainable food system. Food production won't be sustainable even while there is food available, and it may have a detrimental influence on the nutritional status of the community and the quality of the food consumed. Consumption and production interact with one another. Food production will influence food consumption, and vice versa. Food consumption will influence the kind and amount of food commodities produced (supply creates its own demand). The attempt to achieve environmental sustainability will be affected by improper food intake. 


Current food consumption

Consuming food is basically intended to provide nutritional requirements for the body to live a healthy and productive life, not just to make one feel satiated. Every person has different nutritional needs depending on their age, sex, level of physical activity, and other physiological factors including pregnancy and lactation. The most recent Food and Nutrition National Workshop in 2018 established 2,100 kcal and 57 g of protein per capita per day as the adequacy levels for Indonesians to have a healthy, active, and productive life. This standard is applied for assessing food consumption or security. According to the National Socioeconomic Survey (Susenas) in 2021 conducted by Statistics Indonesia, the average daily calorie intake is 2,143 kcal, while the average daily protein intake is 62.3 g (Table 1). This suggests that both energy and protein intake are over the recommended levels.

Consumption of protein and energy is strongly connected with income. When households have adequate money, they are free to choose the foods they want and need (in terms of quantity and quality). For those with high incomes, choosing food involves more than just type; it also involves flavor, nutrient content, packaging shape and material, purchasing location (supermarket, traditional market), and even dining venue (restaurant, food court). Due to their decisions, high-income households pay more per unit for their intake of protein and energy than low-income households do.

Nevertheless, based on the concept of Pola Pangan Harapan, or PPH, (a desirable dietary pattern), the quality of food consumed is not yet diverse. PPH is an arrangement of a variety of foods that considers acceptance, food accessibility, economics, culture, and religion to satisfy the requirement for energy and other nutrients in terms of quantity and quality. It is based on the proportion of energy balance of different food categories. Operationally, each person should eat a variety of foods from the nine food groups with the energy proportions listed in Table 2 to fulfill 2100 kcal/cap/day of energy and other nutrients.  

Food consumption is characterized by an excess of calories from cereals, fats, and oils. While consumption of animal products, pulses, beans, and soybeans, sweets potatoes, fruits, and vegetables surpass 50% of the recommended amount, consumption of roots, tubers, nuts, and oilseeds remains below 50%. Cereals consist of three ingredients: wheat flour; corn; and rice. The average consumption of rice, corn, and wheat flour in 2021 is 6.70 kg, 0.02 kg, and 0.23 kg, respectively. The primary staple food of Indonesians, rice, accounts for 74% of the total energy intake in this group. Even in certain areas, rice has replaced roots, tubers, and maize as the staple food; 97.8% of people eat rice, compared to 11.4% who eat corn.

Dependence on rice for staple foods makes it harder to achieve a sustainable food consumption. The demand for rice will rise along with population growth if food consumption behaviors persist. Climate change and the loss of highly fertile rice fields, on the other hand, pose as the two greatest challenges to rising rice production. Currently, high yield rice fields are used mostly for rice production. Rice fields can be planted three times a year when technical irrigation supplies enough water.

However, as non-agricultural activities such as houses, roads, factories, and other infrastructures take over, the size of the fertile rice fields gradually decreases. To accommodate this demand and the resulting activity, land is required, on a national and local level. Land conversion is irreversible. Therefore, because of reducing the size of the land, rice cultivation should maximize the existing dryland and expansion of new land. Nonetheless, dryland rice cultivation has low productivity. In addition, the issue of restricted water availability prevents farming in drylands from being done year-round.

The possibility exists for roots and tubers to replace rice as a main dish or to supplement rice as a side dish. Since intake only accounts for 50% of the optimal composition, an increase in root and tuber consumption should be done responsibly (Table 2). The attempt should be made by creating various derived products that satisfy community preferences, notably the numerous millennials. To raise demand, more consumers’ needs should always be identified. The population's consumption of roots and tubers in 2021 will still account for 30.2% of cassava, 15.4% of sweet potatoes, 1.6% of sago, and 3.7% of taro. Due to Indonesia's abundant dryland size, there is a great potential for growing more roots and tubers. Additionally, roots and tubers use water more effectively than rice. 

Ninety-seven percent of the recommended diet is made up of animal products. Of this, 80% came from fish, poultry, milk, and eggs, while meats make up the remaining part of the recommended diet. Given that the production of beef requires the greatest land and water compared to other foods, maintaining this arrangement helps to preserve natural resources (Ranganathan et al., 2016). Additionally, a high percentage of 83% of the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables is consumed. Due to the perishable nature of horticultural commodities when not handled properly and quickly during the harvest and post-harvest stage, production planning is required to achieve appropriate consumption. The highest commodity losses are in horticulture, particularly in vegetables (BAPPENAS, 2021).

Future food consumption pattern

In general, a perspective of future community food consumption patterns is the dynamic trend in the past few years and will continue (Sudaryanto, et al, 2022). In addition, the government policy on developing the national food system and food and nutrition security will affect the change in community food consumption patterns. Elaboration of these two factors is as follows.

First, the change in community food consumption patterns over the last 10 years (2010-2020) has been towards more diverse, balanced, and safe nutrition. The changes are in the direction of: (1) Rice is still the main carbohydrate source of staple food, although the decrease in per capita consumption is still relatively low. In addition, demand for quality rice will increase (fluffy taste, fragrant aroma, and bright white color). (2) Consumption per capita of processed food products flour-base, either in the form of noodles, cakes, or snacks increases strongly. Noodle consumption increased by 29.8% during the previous ten years (2012–2022). White bread, biscuits, and sweet bread consumption are considerably higher, at 54.7%, 62.1%, and 83.0%, respectively. (3) Consumption per capita of protein sources from livestock and fish products increases slowly, and consumption/capita of horticultural products is stagnant. (4) Demand for processed products (ready-to-eat) and eating away from home increase with a high growth rate. (5) The community awareness of food safety and quality has increased. This awareness influences the head of households or persons in choosing the food.

Second, changes in community food consumption behavior are influenced by income/capita, knowledge of food nutrition and health, the availability of a variety of foods, and the dynamics of food prices. The first three aspects are predicted to have an increasing trend, ensuring the continuity of the changing trend towards food consumption with a more balanced nutritional composition. The dynamics of food prices will also affect the choice of food products purchased by the head of the household. Those aspects influenced behavior of households on spending their income on food composition toward more high-value commodities, including safety and healthy consideration.

Third, the government policy in developing the national food system determines the availability of various foods, the dynamics of food prices, and the community food consumption pattern. For example, in the Midterm National Development Plan (RPJMN) 2020-2024, the Indonesian government sets one of the national priorities for economic development: Strengthening economic resilience for quality growth. One of the priority programs to achieve this is increasing availability, accessibility, and quality of food consumption. The implementation of the policy direction is carried out by various ministries and government agencies as follows: (1) The Ministry of Agriculture implements policies and programs to achieve sustainable rice self-sufficiency and increase the production of food commodities that have a high impact on stabilizing food inflation, reducing food imports (import substitution), and rising exports (export promotion). (2) The National Food Agency has the task of maintaining the price stability of important food prices in the national food economy through collaboration and partnership with the private sector, local government, and food businesses/entrepreneurs. (3) The National Food Agency also carries out efforts to accelerate food diversification based on local resources. Local food sources in this program, among others, include cassava, sweet potatoes, sago, bananas, and breadfruit, as substitutes for wheat flour. In addition, increasing the consumption of livestock and fish products as protein sources and horticultural products is promoted. The indicator for this effort is the Desirable Dietary Pattern (DDP) score. The target DDP score in 2024 and 2030 is 95.2 and close to 100 (ideal), respectively. However, the DDP score in 2020 reached 87,2, about seven points below the target. (4) The Ministry of SMEs and Cooperatives promotes the production of processed food based on local food sources by MSMEs. (5) The Ministry of Trade, in coordination with the relevant ministries/government agencies, issues regulations to maintain the price stabilization of essential foods. Based on the Presidential Regulation, the important and strategic foods for the national economy, as mentioned above, are rice, corn, soybeans, sugar, onions, chilies, chicken eggs, chicken meat, and beef. This national food price policy is expected to be able to maintain food price stability which influences the decision of the household heads in purchasing food composition.

Problems faced by food consumers

On average, in 2020, food consumption per capita per year has achieved or was above the standard adequacy requirement of 2,100 kcal energy and 57 grams of protein (Ministry of Health Regulation Number 20/2019) and has been changing toward more balanced nutrition. However, problems arise in the 40% lowest income class, which consumed less than the standard energy and protein requirement adequacy, and the lowest 10% consumed less than 70% of the standard adequacy.

One of the government priorities in economic development is to strengthen economic resilience for quality growth, among others, through increasing the availability, accessibility, and quality of food consumption. Challenges to achieving this development objective and, at the same time overcoming these problems are: (1) The low purchasing power of the lowest 40% of households cannot afford to buy enough food to meet the food consumption standard adequacy in terms of quantity and quality as well as nutrition, to have an active, healthy, and productive life. (2) Adequate food supply, especially for carbohydrate staple food, is not a problem. The government declared the achievement of rice food self-sufficiency in the last three years (2019-2021). Furthermore, the government policy indicated that the shortage of particular food could be met by importation following national interest. However, food price instability for certain commodities is still an issue due to seasonal harvesting time, logistical and distribution problems, and international food market dynamics. (3) Unbalanced food and nutrition consumption patterns is observed in lower-income households. They consume more carbohydrate food sources (rice and wheat-based food products) and less protein, vitamins, and minerals (meat, vegetables, and fruits). High prices for this food become the main reason why they consume less. (4) Demand for prepared food and food away from home has been increasing steadily. However, food safety is an issue with this consumption habit, especially for a lower-income population that buys prepared food from small food stalls and street vendors. (5) The proportion of food loss and wastes is relatively high. For example, a study in Indonesia reported that from 2000 to 2019, the average food loss and waste (FLW) reached 115-185 kilogram per capita per year (Ministry of National Development Planning 2020). This food loss and waste certainly will reduce food availability nationally.

The government has taken action to overcome these food problems and has given special attention to low the income households through the distribution of food assistance. As discussed above, through several ministries and institutions, the government has launched programs to increase domestic food production and maintain food availability and price stability. IAARD has done R&D to support those efforts by providing technologies and inventions to improve crop productivity, farming efficiency, and food product competitiveness. However, dissemination of improved technology and innovation and farmers' capacity to implement the latest technologies and innovations are still problems to be handled promptly. This issue discusses in Chapter Five.


Depending on the food consumption habits and agricultural potential of each nation, a unique strategy for promoting a sustainable food consumption must be developed. While underdeveloped countries still need to increase their consumption, industrialized countries are putting more effort into reducing their consumption of animal products (Hertwich, 2005). In terms of energy and protein intake, food consumption in Indonesia is already adequate but not yet diversified. While consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and roots and tubers must be improved, consumption of cereals, notably rice, is excessive.

According to the corresponding food consumption characteristics, Indonesia does not have any trouble in meeting its food needs. When the consumption behavior is still not modified, it could be a warning, though. Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation, is experiencing a high population growth, which is driving up demand for food. Food demand will increase in both quantity and quality because of economic expansion that raises household income. At least 20% of the people in the high-income category follows the western diet, which is characterized by consuming more animal-based protein and calories. Resources are becoming scarcer both in terms of quantity and quality. As a result, environmentally sustainable consumption practices are essential.  

Food preferences are shaped by cultural variables in the places where people are born and raised. A particular community's formation of food taboo and beliefs, as well as the environment as a role in obtaining food consumption preferences are the primary driver of culinary habits, which changing in response to changes in the socioeconomic level and culture, including food habits from abroad.

Changing the community's diet and putting in place enabling regulations are two ways to apply a sustainable food consumption. The sustainable food consumption has clear principles, yet it might be difficult to put into practice. The sustainability of natural resources should be introduced to the mindset of people who currently choose their food primarily based on taste, affordability, and status. By shifting the focus from food quantity to quality, one can change their consumption habits. Consumption patterns should be based on the need to reduce food waste. Long-term thinking should replace short-term thinking, and private needs should be transformed into public needs.

The Indonesian version of the MyPlate concept, commonly referred to as Isi Piringku, makes the principle of consuming a variety of healthy, balanced, and safe foods very clear. MyPlate is visualization of Indonesian Balanced Nutrition Guidelines which was released by the Ministry of Health (Ministry of Health of Republic of Indonesia, 2014). In the MyPlate, staple meals and side dishes (livestock products, legumes, and pulses) make up half of the plate, and fruits and vegetables make up the other half. (Figure 1). Application of the MyPlate can support a wide range of dietary choices, preventing the production and exploitation of particular products that deplete natural resources. The recommendation to eat more fruits and vegetables is consistent with efforts to protect the environment and promotes green consumption (Ariani et al., 2021).    

To influence community behavior, persuasive interventions that require more time need also be implemented. A sustainable campaign to diversify food consumption must be undertaken with a universal audience using the media, social media, and public figures. Children's eating habits are largely shaped by the family, especially the mother. The introduction of different types of healthy, ecologically friendly food to children should happen as early as possible. 

A sustainable food consumption requires appropriate regulation and intervention to assure the support of all parties involved in the food industry. Government policy has a strong relationship with stakeholders and comes with incentives and disincentives. In addition to the focus on food consumption, government should also take action to influence food production, including both raw and processed food, storage and distribution, food consumption and safety, and food price. Consequently, a sustainable food system can support the use of sustainable foods. (Tranggano et al., 2019).


Environmentally friendly food consumption has never been simple, but it needs to be accomplished quickly. Individuals and communities are directed to consume a variety of foods based on the MyPlate Concept. Food consumption with a focus on sustainability must follow the guiding principles of healthy people and the environment. The central and local government and lawmakers and the community may all work together to make significant efforts to prevent food loss and waste. Agriculture, demographic, and economic policies should be all integrated with food security policy to create a sustainable food system.  


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