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Two months ago, Indonesian farmer Tama harvested several tonnes of shallots from a small plot of land he had rented in the village of Grinting in central Java.

In several ways, Tama had President Joko Widodo to thank for his crop.

The Village Fund programme, launched by Widodo, paid to turn a dirt track between his house and the farm into a paved road. It also brought more electricity, powering lights that trap moths at night, cutting his spending on pesticides.

Tama’s shallots were transported to the capital, Jakarta, 250 kilometres to the west, on a new toll road that was part of an infrastructure drive the president led.

But Widodo has also sought to control retail prices, leading to more food imports and a cap on the market price of staples such as rice and shallots, making it hard for farmers to sell at a profit.

So as Widodo seeks a second five-year term in this week’s election, some farmers across the highly populated island of Java wonder whether he should get their vote.

Tama, 42, did not earn enough in February to repay a loan due on harvest day because shallot prices were so low.

“I go to my friends to borrow money, or work on anything I can find,” said Tama, who – like many Indonesians – has only one name.

Although Widodo, more commonly known as Jokowi, is heading into the election with a comfortable polling lead over his challenger, retired general Prabowo Subianto, his opponents have seized on his agriculture policy to claim that some of the infrastructure projects don’t help ordinary people…Continue Reading

By Ian Dei

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