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Seeking Deeper Roots for Bali's Agricultural Sector

As Bali Agricultural Sector Shrinks the Island Also Loses it Biggest Job Generator.

(5/7/2011) Until the recent tourism boom, Bali's main industry was agriculture. However, the pressures of development, hotels and villas leaves the island with only 398,491 hectares of arable land suitable for animal husbandry or agriculture - 70% of the total land area of the island.

Bali currently has 142,971 hectares under cultivation, 81,210 hectares (57%) of which is dedicated to rice production. These agricultural lands are worked by 408,144 family bread-winners who substantially contribute to the sustenance of 2.2 million family members.

Professor Nyoman Suparta of the Bali Farmers' Association (HKTI) revealed that agriculture has shrunk to just 20.65% of Bali's Gross Domestic Product. Meanwhile, the tourism sector now dominates the economy, driving 64.43% of the region's Gross Domestic Product.

Suparta, however, sees it as highly ironic that that agriculture which is the smaller, shrinking sector of the economy is also the largest driver of employment for the lowest income levels of society. Moreover, the academic predicts a looming problem ahead due to the under-diversification of the Balinese economy and an over-reliance on tourism.

Similarly, the professors decries the growing dependency on consumer products sold in Bali that are wholly or mostly produced outside the island, eliminating in the process employment opportunities for the local populace. The lack of clear policies on how to address imported food products leave Balinese farmers exposed and unprotected, despite a huge market available to supply the food needs of the island's many visitors and permanent residents. Suparta warns that if the current trends continues the Balinese agriculturalists will eventually become extinct.

In order to achieve a truly sustainable and diversified economy in Bali the island's farmers need protection and support that will improve their welfare and make work in the  farming sector an attractive career option for young people.