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May 2024

Sprawling queues for subsidised rice highlight plight of Indonesia’s poor

Credit: REUTERS/Nyimas Laula

By Dewi Kurniawati and Heru Asprihanto

JAKARTA, Feb 28 (Reuters) – In the afternoon sun, dozens of Indonesians, mostly women, gather in a snaking queue to buy bags of subsidised rice, their arms poking through a metal gate to grab tickets assuring them a spot to make a purchase.

The temporary bazaar run by state food procurement agency Bulog in the city of Bekasi, 25 km (15.5 miles) east of the capital Jakarta highlights the struggle of Indonesia’s less fortunate to buy the grain that is at the centre of nearly every meal in Southeast Asia’s most populous country.

A staple for most of Indonesia’s 270 million people, the price of rice has climbed more than 16% since last year, as the El Nino weather phenomenon has cut rainfall across large parts of Asia in 2023, reducing cereal output and sparking food inflation pressure for some of the world’s most price-sensitive consumers.

Masih, a 55-year-old coconut vendor, was among those jostling to buy a 5 kg (11 pound) bag of rice.

“It’s better to queue up and have the rice at home. It is expensive in the market, so better to get it cheap here,” she told Reuters.

Rice prices at the bazaar are capped at 10,600 rupiah (67.8 U.S. cents) per kg, compared with 14,300 rupiah in the open market. Bulog limits sales to 10 kg per customer to prevent hoarding.

The government typically steps in to sell food products at subsidised prices when prices climb.

($1 = 15,630.0000 rupiah)

(Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina, Johan Purnomo; Editing by Naveen Thukral and Christian Schmollinger) QR Code

Published Date: February 28, 2024

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