The Struggle of Lubuk Cuik People in Maintaining the Hot Taste of North Sumatera Chili
Many people have views that food cannot be fully enjoyed without the hot taste of chili. But who would have thought that one of the biggest chili growing area is located in Lubuk Cuik Village, Lima Puluh Pesisir District in Batu Bara Regency, North Sumatera.
Located 120 kilometers from the city of Medan, the village with an 85-hectare chili growing farmland is one of the biggest chili-growing center in North Sumatera. In one day, the farmland can produce 18 tons of chili.
But at the beginning, the Lubuk Cuik Village was not a chili center. With fertile lands, the local people were used to plant catch crops. Not many dared to plant chili as these plants require higher maintenance.
Head of the Farmers Group called Kelompok Tani Makmur of Lubuk Ciuk Village, Salidi, explained that people were used to plant cucumbers and paddy during seasons. However, in 2006, the village suffered massive flooding which inundated the farmland in the village. After two years, the villagers decided to plant chili.
“At the beginning, planting chili was likened to raising babies due to its high maintenance. So, only several people planted chili. For several seasons, there were also challenges from other farmers who have adopted different irrigation concepts,” said Salidi.
However, since 2011, Salidi explained that with the success of the harvests, scores of other farmers began planting chili. In 2012, the chili farmland expanded, and other villages in the regency also followed the trend.
“Other villages such as Pematang Tengah Village, Gambus Laut Village, Perupuk Village, finally took to chili farming, they all learned from here. Chili farmland subsequently expanded to 500 ha,” he said.
Salidi also said that most of the 85 hectares of farmland in Lubuk Cuik Village are owned by individuals. There are several who lease the land, however, most of the farmers are members in the farmers group.
He said that the formation of the farmers group was scheduled to make the planting of paddy and chili in unison. The reason being that if there is a difference of one month in the planting of chili, the delay can cause failure.
“The planting pattern needs to be in unison so that all farmers can enjoy the benefits. The farmers’ schedule can be decided upon by mutual consensus among the villagers. Without the planting pattern, the harvesting system can be disorganized and this will affect harvests,” he said.
The price of chili is quite high and this prompted the Lubuk Ciuk villagers to maintain chili planting. According to Salid, Lubuk Ciuk is able to produce 15-18 tons of chili per day. Based on the highest chili price once enjoyed, which was Rp50,000/kg, the Lubuk Cuik Village was able to earn an income of Rp900,000,000 per harvest.
“Production is sold mainly to local areas in Batubara, then to Medan, Pekanbaru, Riau, Padang, Dumai and Batam,” said Salidi.
Lubuk Ciuk Village Secretary, Misno, is also thankful that red chili can raise the living standard of the local people. “As we have felt the improved living standard of the people and local economy of the village, we joined the efforts to create the farmers group and expanded the chili farmland to about 84 ha,” Misno said.
The main challenge faced by the Lubuk Cuik chili farmers is that the cost of chili is not always high. Moreover, the consistency and type of planting needs attention to maintain sustainability of their special traits. The development of chili derivative products is one of the alternatives to overcome the situation.
Since 2017, chili farmers began to develop chili condiments together with PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium (Inalum), Member of MIND ID, the State-Owned Enterprise Holding for the Mining Industry, who began to offer counseling and guidance in creating chili condiments such as sauces, powder chili and dried chili. These efforts are aimed at encouraging the economic growth of Lubuk Cuik Village.
Aside from raising capacity, in 2017, Inalum and the local people also developed an irrigation system for the first time in Lubuk Ciuk Village. The system constructed on the basis of mutual assistance, saw the completion of land irrigation construction and several other facilities, such as the village farmers hut, road construction and nursery. The capacity development of the famers is currently running well with infrastructures supporting agriculture.