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May 2024

Indonesia to import rice from Thailand to fight shortages, rising prices

Buyers have been complaining this year about the scarcity of rice at both traditional and modern markets and the accompanying higher prices.

A worker carries a bag of rice at the Cipinang Central Rice Market in East Jakarta on March 15, 2021. PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST

MANILA – The National Food Agency (Bapanas) is planning to import 2 million tonnes of rice from Thailand to combat shortages and skyrocketing prices across the country, the agency’s chief secretary Sarwo Edhy said on Sunday.

Buyers have been complaining this year about the scarcity of rice at both traditional and modern markets and the accompanying higher prices.

The price of regular rice has climbed to between Rp 16,000 (US$1.02) and 17,000 per liter, up from the previous prevailing level of Rp 13,000, while premium varieties have reached Rp 23,000 per liter, leading some retailers to stop stocking them altogether.

“While [imports] were 2.8 million tonnes last year, this year [the plan] is 2 million tonnes,” Eddy said, as quoted by Antara. “But if domestic production is sufficient, that means imports will not happen.”

The agency has attributed the price increases to higher production costs, including elevated fertilizer prices, and harvest delays caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon in 2023. It has noted that the increases so far are not related to the upcoming Ramadan season, during which national rice consumption tends to increase.

“So far, there haven’t been any [signs of rice hoarding]. Everything is proceeding as usual, so hopefully, prices will return to normal soon,” Eddy said.

Bapanas head Arief Prasetyo Adi warned earlier this year of potential rice shortages in the first two months of 2024. He estimated a gap of 2.8 million tonnes as a result of El Niño harvest disruptions, CNBC Indonesia reported.

Arief said domestic rice production was currently only about 1 million tonnes per month and that 2.6 million tonnes of rice were needed nationwide per month.

To bridge the gap, the government would rely on unused rice from last year’s stockpile, Arief said.

Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan said the government would use up the unfulfilled portion of last year’s rice import quota, some 600,000 tonnes, and that the supplies were expected to arrive by the end of March. He added that 2 million additional tonnes of rice would be imported to address the supply issue, Detik Finance reported.

Thailand is Indonesia’s biggest foreign supplier of rice, providing US$153 million worth of the commodity last year, followed by Pakistan with US$79.3 million and Myanmar with US$23.98 million, according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data.

Thailand accounted for over half of Indonesia’s rice imports by value last month, contributing to a significant bilateral trade surplus for Indonesia’s neighbor.

Acting BPS head Amalia Adininggar Widyasanti said on Thursday that Indonesia had imported 443,913 tonnes of rice for the price of $279 million in January 2024, a 135 percent year-on-year (yoy) increase in value from the $118 million worth of rice imported in January 2023. QR Code

Published Date: February 20, 2024

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