Wed, 16 Jan 2008
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia plans to boost domestic soybean output to 900,000 tonnes this year to reduce dependence on imports as soaring prices have hurt the local food industry, Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono said on Tuesday.

"We will distribute good-quality soybean seedlings for free to farmers and revive soybean producing-areas which have been neglected," Apriyantono was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters.

"We expect soybean output will increase to 850,000-900,000 tonnes this year. It's the minimum target."

The country produced an estimated 608,260 tonnes in 2007.

On Monday, the Indonesian government scrapped a 10 percent import duty on soybean to offset soaring soybean prices.

U.S. soybean futures at the Chicago Board of Trade ended mixed on Monday as traders booked profits after a huge, two-day rally. Earlier, new-crop contracts rose above the 50-cent limit on follow-through momentum from Friday.

Sutarto Alimoeso, director general of food crops at the ministry, said the government plans to expand soybean area by 200,000 hectares this year from 600,000 hectares.

The government also plans mass planting of soybeans by private companies to boost output.

Soybean has been mostly cultivated by smallholders as an additional crop to staple crops such as rice and corn, which limits production.

Indonesia still imports nearly 70 percent of its soybean demand, mainly for the food industry which uses soybean for tofu and soy sauce. The industry is dominated by small and medium-sized companies.

The country imported an estimated 1.4 million tonnes of soybeans in 2007, up from 1.2 million tonnes in 2006, according to data from the Indonesian office of the American Soybean Association.

The association said Indonesia imports between 80-90 percent of its soybeans from the United States, with the rest coming from Argentina.



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