Indonesia will decide within two weeks whether to ship in rice from Vietnam and other Asian countries, the head of the state food procurement agency said, as dry weather crimps local output and stokes domestic prices for the staple grain.
Indonesia, which is battling dry weather caused by the El Nino weather pattern, already has a contingency plan in place to import rice from Vietnam if needed.
Rice imports are a contentious issue in the country where President Joko Widodo is faced with fast-rising food prices but is also pursuing self-sufficiency in various foods to protect farmers.
“Yes it is true,” Bulog CEO Djarot Kusumayakti told reporters late on Monday, when asked whether Widodo would decide within two weeks whether to begin imports from Vietnam.
Kusumayakti, who earlier this year predicted rice imports would likely happen in early 2016, said calculations on potential volumes were still ongoing.
“Their (Vietnam) commitment was for 1.5 million tonnes,” he added. “But with limited time, their (port) capacity is not sufficient. They might only provide 1 million tonnes.”
There have also been talks with Thai rice sellers for about 500,000 tonnes, he said, adding that suppliers were also being sought in Myanmar, Cambodia and Pakistan.
Since coming to power a year ago, Widodo has aggressively pursued self-sufficiency in various foods as part of an increasingly nationalistic approach to protecting farmers, curbing state imports of rice in a country where private buying from overseas has been largely banned for decades.
The government had given Bulog a target to buy 4 million tonnes from domestic producers in 2015, but the agency has so far only procured around 2.5 million tonnes, with Kusumayakti estimating purchases for the year would total less than 3 million tonnes.
Bulog is the dominant rice buyer in Indonesia, tasked with maintaining annual stocks of 1.5-2 million tonnes.
Analysts have forecast that Indonesia will import 1.6 million tonnes of the staple grain this year.
Last week, the latest rice loading schedule data from Vietnam’s largest port showed 63,100 tonnes of the grain was loaded on vessels destined for Indonesia.
(Source – http://www.blackseagrain.net/novosti/indonesia-to-decide-on-rice-imports-within-two-weeks)