The Jakarta Post
Indonesia will still need to import many essential food items like beef, sugar and soybeans this year but not rice, thanks to a combination of rising output and sufficient stocks.
Agriculture Minister Suswono said Tuesday that production of unhusked rice would increase by 8 percent to 76.57 million tons this year from 70.87 million in 2013, while the nation still had a stock carry-over of 2 million tons at the end of last year.
The ministry has previously reported that the average national demand for rice is around 34 million tons per year, while 70 million tons of unhusked rice is equal to 39 million tons of rice.
'So, I can guarantee that we will not be importing our main staple food this year,' he said while opening the national agriculture development working meeting at the ministry's office.
State Logistics Agency (Bulog) president director Sutarto Alimoeso said, however, that his agency did not know yet if the government would have to import rice this year.
'We need to see our production capacity first. The production may drop this year if the climate is not favorable,' he said.
Bulog did not import rice last year because the national output sufficiently met demand, Sutarto said.
'The last time the government imported rice was in 2012. Last year's imports were done by private companies,' he said.
Suswono said that he was optimistic that the national rice output would increase this year, given the forecast of a favorable global climate, along with the subsidies and even distribution of fertilizers and seeds.
He said that the government allocated Rp 21.05 trillion (US$1.72 billion) and Rp 1.56 trillion for fertilizer and seed subsidies, respectively.
However, he said Indonesia would continue to import beef, sugar and soybeans because local production had not met demand yet.
Last year, the country produced 0.43 million tons of beef while local demand reached 0.55 million tons, Suswono said.
The country also could not meet the local demand for soybeans, the main ingredient in making the popular dish tempeh (fermented soy cake).
'Soybean production dropped 3.5 percent to 0.81 million tons last year from 0.84 million tons in 2012,' Suswono said, adding that the local demand for soybeans reached 2.5 million tons per year.
The production of sugar met the annual household demand of 384,300 tons last year, but not for industrial needs, he said.
He said the country produced 2.54 million tons of sugar last year, but total national demand for sugar reached 5.8 million tons.
Suswono blamed land conversion and heavy rain as factors that decreased the total production of sugar and soybeans last year.
'Around 100,000 hectares of farm land was converted into industrial land or housing areas last year. Therefore, we did not have enough land to plant sugarcane and soybeans,' he said, adding that local administrations had to actively control farm land-use in their respective areas.(koi)
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