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Sumatra, Indonesia

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Country Statistics

  • Total Population: 245,613,043 (2011)
  • Life Expectancy: 71 years (2011)
  • Per capita income (ppp): $4,300 US (2010)
  • Ethnicities:
    -Javanese 40.6%; Sudanese 15%; Madurese 3%; Minangkabau 3%; others 38%
  • Major exports: oil, natural gas, crude palm oil, coal, appliances, textiles, rubber


Indonesia is as diverse as it is enormous. Hundreds of languages are spoken on the 17,000 islands that make up the world’s largest archipelago and Muslim country. The main island, Java, is one of the most densely populated regions of the world.  This resource rich (including oil) nation gained its independence from the Netherlands following WWII and named Sukarno as it’s first independent president.

President Sukarno, a nationalist embattled leader, was eventually replaced by the much more pro-Western General Suharto. Suharto’s coming to power in 1965 was accompanied by the massacre of between 250,000 (CIA estimates) to 1 million (Amnesty International estimates) citizens. Afterwards corporations flocked to invest in Indonesia, and U.S. presidents as recent as Clinton heralded Suharto as “our kind of guy”. In 1997, as the Asian financial crisis hit, popular opposition to Suharto’s government grew bolder. The International Monetary Fund offered him a bail out plan, but when Suharto hesitated he fell out of favor with the West. Eventually he acquiesced but mass protests increased and Suharto resigned in favor of his vice president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie.

“When President Suharto suggested Mr Habibie as his choice of vice president, the value of the Indonesian currency fell to an all-time low because of fears over (Habibie’s) eccentric economic theories,” the BBC reported at the time. “His appointment as president caused some alarm in business circles and dismayed those who wanted an end to the corruption and cronyism which characterized Mr Suharto's rule.”

During Habibie’s administration, ethnic and religious clashes, corruption scandals and violence crippled his capacity to rule. But culminating with the national state of crisis around the East Timor vote for independent, Habibie resigned power. After a relative calm was restored in 2000, Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of former President Sukarno, was named Indonesia’s first woman as President. But Sukarnoputri, riding on her father’s popularity more than her own attributes, faced a daunting task to bring the violence and the economic crisis under control, while at the same time abiding by the tight restructuring policies imposed by International Institutions.

The International Monetary Fund, to which Indonesia owes $10 billion, directed the country to: enhance non-oil tax revenues through broadening the tax base and strengthening tax administration; to cut down on the current "uncertainty to business" including arbitrary tax assessments, burdensome customs procedures and inefficiency in the refund systems; and to build a clear and competitive framework for labor relations as the "key to attracting investment” in labor-intensive industries needed to make progress in reducing unemployment. But nowhere are the development needs of the common people taken into consideration. And now as Indonesia holds elections, Sukarnoputri is struggling to maintain her position.

Indonesia's general elections are amongst the world's most complicated. In April 2004, nearly 450,000 candidates competed for more than 15,000 national and regional offices. Already being dubbed “the year of voting frequently” - Indonesians went to the polls in April as a first step in a series of votes that should culminate in the country’s first-ever direct voter election of the President and Vice-President. Previously, the President and Vice-President were chosen by the MPR (People’s Consultative Council), comprised of members of Parliament and of un-elected representatives from other “functional groups” – including ranking officers of the Indonesian military, who many say hold the true political power in Indonesia.

Presidential elections were held July 20, but since no candidate won a majority, the top two candidates -- incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri and her former security minister, now Democratic Party candidate Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono -- will compete in a run-off election September 20.

Aceh and Coffee Production

Of particular concern is Megawati’s position on Aceh. In April 2003, Human Rights Watch expressed concern about extra-judicial killings, forced disappearances and threats against civilians, human rights defenders and international cease-fire monitors in the province. In May 2003, Megawati decided to impose martial law on Aceh and Acehnese suddenly woke up to find themselves in the middle of Indonesia's largest war since the time of Suharto. Megawati is remembered as the only civilian president in the post-Suharto era to have returned Aceh to the Indonesian Military (TNI).

According to ForesTrade President Thomas Fricke, the 2003 Cooperative Coffees Spring visit was an unique window of opportunity to move about more or less freely in Aceh that was not seen in the years prior, nor has it been repeated since. Yet despite this backdrop, farmers continue to produce quality coffee and manage to get it to port.

The total land area under coffee cultivation is estimated at 1.1 million hectares, scattered over many islands of diverse geographical and ecological terrain. Smallholders account for some 90 percent of all production. The vast majority of exports are natural unwashed coffees. Wet processing was introduced into Indonesia by the Dutch from the West Indies and were designated WIB: West Indische Bereiding (West Indian preparation). Persatuan Petani Kopi Gayo Organik (PPKGO), with whom we work via ForesTrade has developed a “special preparation” for Cooperative Coffees contracts that consists of a wrapped wet fermentation that brings out the wild characteristics of the Sumatran coffees. This coffee has had excellent results and has become one of our biggest sellers, representing 6 containers per year.


CIA World Factbook
UNICEF Country Profile
BBC Country Profile

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