The Ministry of Agriculture plans to impose a new national standard on imported horticultural products in 2012 to stem the tide of low-quality fruits, vegetables and plants.
“Hopefully it can reduce the import volume of the fruits entering the country, since only the high-quality fruits will be able to be sold in the domestic market,” Ahmad Dimyati, the ministry’s director general of horticulture, said on Tuesday.
Imported fruit will be tested for color, sugar and acid content and ripeness.
The new standards are designed to help domestic farmers by limiting the import of fruits such as oranges, durians and pineapples, which have surged onto the domestic market in recent years.
Ahmad said import duties on most fresh fruits had been abolished since 2006, long before the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement came into force. That has led to a big increase in the amount of fruit imported, with durians from Thailand and oranges from China and Australia becoming increasingly widespread.
Ahmad said the government needed to apply quality standards so the domestic market will not be overwhelmed, leaving Indonesian-grown fruit unsold.
However, Ahmad declined to provide details of the new standards, saying they were still being developed.
Figures from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) showed a steep increase in fruit imports.
In 2006 the country imported 100,655 tons of oranges valued at $71.8 million. By 2008, that had jumped to 143,000 tons worth $124 million.
The country only imported 16,000 tons of durians in 2006, valued at $15.4 million. By 2008 that had surged to 24,600 tons, valued $30.8 million.
Benny Kusbini, who heads the National Horticultural Council (DHN), said the government had been slow to act. “The government should have imposed the standards two years ago,” Benny said. “At present, the imported fruits have already overwhelmed our fruit markets.”
But Mahatmantri Griwulangi, head of international trade at PT Rabobank International Indonesia, said many imported fruits - such as Thailand’s Monthong durians - were actually of higher quality than local produce.
“The quality of imported fruit is already high. Setting a higher standard will raise questions from the World Trade Organization,” he said.