U.S. grower leaders and stakeholders witnessed first-hand how U.S. soybeans imported into Indonesia are being used to make Indonesian’s heritage food, tempe. Established with support from USSEC, Indonesia’s first tempe training facility (Rumah Tempe) is positioned to be the country’s premier learning center for tempe production.
While in Indonesia attending a regional strategic planning meeting, ASA and USB grower leaders and QSSB staff toured the Rumah Tempe center and met with officials involved in the establishment of the training facility, which was completed in June, 2012. On hand were members of the Indonesian Tempe Forum (ITF), Bogor Tempe cooperative (KOPTI) and Mercy Corps International (MCI), a global NGO. The delegation included Bob Haselwood (USB Treasurer), James Miller (USSEC board member), Randy Mann (USSEC Chairman), Paul Simonsen (Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council IM Committee Chairman), Sam Ziegler (Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council staff) and Michelle Swenson (North Dakota Soybean Council staff). Other stakeholders who have vested interests in improving tempe production in Indonesia included the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service in Jakarta, the local government of Bogor City, and private sector stakeholders to include PT FKS Multi Agro (a major soybean importer/supplier) and PT Antam (a large Indonesian mining conglomerate). The Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council provided funding to the Rumah Tempe in 2012 to initiate the facility’s first series of training courses.
During the visit, the team saw how tempe is produced in ideal hygienic conditions. Tempe production remains a cottage industry and production across the country is generally unhygienic and labor intensive. Most producers learn their skills from apprenticeship or from their parents and have little understanding of good hygienic practices and sound business models. The role of the Rumah Tempe is to upgrade that knowledge and raise the productivity and image of tempe overall. Work is also being undertaken to elevate the international status of tempe by setting a Codex standard and a UNESCO Heritage Food status for traditional food. International recognition will further widen the scope of consumption, spread the health benefits of this unique food globally, and instill a sense of pride among Indonesians in their unique cultural food.
With a population of over 240 million, fifth in size worldwide, soybean consumption in Indonesia is among the highest in Southeast Asia at 25 lbs per capita, primarily in the form of tempe and tofu. This tempe project is part of a larger USSEC program to stimulate growth in consumption by improving production facilities and quality of tempe and tempe products in order to raise the image of tempe as a safe and healthy food. In 2012, Indonesia was America’s 3rd largest customer for U.S. soybeans, importing over 1.7 million metric tons (63 million bushels).