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Govt allocates US$43 million for rice imports
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The government has decided to allocate Rp 390 billion (US$43 million) from this year's state budget to import rice to cope with a possible shortage due to natural disasters.

Speaking to reporters after attending a Cabinet meeting here Friday, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Boediono said that the government would import some 210,000 tons of rice this year.

"This is to secure rice stocks in view of the natural disasters that have hit many parts of the country recently," he was quoted as saying by Antara news agency.

The government's decision came two months before the celebration of Idul Fitri, which will be later followed by Christmas and New Year, as well as the Chinese New Year early next year. The demand for food, including rice, usually increases at that time.

According to him, the imported rice will not affect the price of rice in the local market as it will be held in reserve at the National Logistics Agency (Bulog) and only be used when there is a shortage.

He said that the government would determine the importers of the rice through a tender. "We're currently finalizing the necessary requirements and procedures of the tender. Hopefully, we can do the tender next week," he noted.

Trade Minister Mari Pangestu said that it was not certain whether Indonesia would import the rice from Vietnam as it had done before.

"But the imported rice will be kept in reserve in case of a shortage in supply due to natural disasters or increasing demand during the upcoming religious festivities," she said.

Agriculture Minister Anton Aprianto noted that actually Indonesia has been self-sufficient in rice since 2004. "It is true that a country can be considered self-sufficient if it can fulfill 90 percent of local demand. But actually, a more moderate definition of self-sufficiency is 95 percent," he said.

He added that according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) Indonesia's imports of rice had decreased from 1.4 million tons in 2003 to 236,870 tons in 2004 and 173,570 tons last year.

Meanwhile, the secretary-general of the Indonesian Farmers Federation (FSPI), Henry Saragih, said that the FSPI was against the government's plan to import the rice, saying that Indonesia had a surplus of rice production this year.

He cited the BPS's forecast this year that Indonesia's rice surplus would reach 1.1 million tons. "This has been indicated by the fact that many regions right now are harvesting or are going to harvest," he said.

He said that if Bulog did not have enough stock, it did not mean that the country was experiencing a shortage. "if Bulog does not have enough stock it is because it does not want to buy rice from farmers at the current prices," he added.
MGR Archive 3.9.2006
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