Thu, 03 Jul 2003

Govt may revoke chicken leg import ban

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government is considering revoking a two-year ban on chicken leg imports from the United States after the World Trade Organization (WTO) raised concern over the protective measure.

According to a report delivered by Indonesian government to the WTO's Trade Policy Review Mechanism (TPRM) meeting in Geneva, the government, after revoking the ban, may raise import tariffs on chicken legs from its current level of 5 percent in a bid to protect the domestic market.

"Although the plan is still under review, the government may decide to rescind the import ban (on chicken legs) and will protect the domestic market by raising the tariff," a report said.

The WTO assessed Indonesia's economic and trade policies over the past four years in Geneva on Monday to determine whether or not the policies violated the WTO ruling.

Minister of Industry and Trade Rini MS Soewandi said that the WTO had sought clarification from Indonesia over the ban on chicken leg imports.

"We stress that chicken leg imports must meet the halal criteria and importers must get the halal certification," she said.

According to the halal criteria, the chickens must be slaughtered in accordance with Islamic tradition.

"We (the government) are now holding talks with relevant officials as to whether to allow chicken leg imports after they (importers) meet such halal criteria," Rini told reporters after opening a warehouse exhibition on Wednesday.

The import of chicken legs from the United States, the world's largest exporter of cheap chicken leg quarters, has been a controversial issue in Indonesia over the past two years.

The Ministry of Agriculture has banned U.S. chicken leg imports in May 2001 to protect local poultry farmers and consumers amid concerns that the U.S. products were not halal.

In another development, Rini said that the government had also canceled a plan to regulate rice imports.

"We have decided not to limit rice imports into the country as the harvest season has passed," she said.

In June, she disclosed a plan to limit rice imports to avoid an oversupply amid the harvest season.

Under the plan, rice imports can only enter the country through designated seaports. Currently, rice can enter the country via any seaport.

Rini recently also sent a letter to Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Dorodjatun Kuntjoro Jakti asking him to ban the rice imports for at least three months.

The price of unhusked rice dropped to around Rp 800 (about 9.7 U.S. cents) per kilogram recently, compared to the government's target of Rp 1,095 per kg. Many said that the drop was mainly due to the influx of cheaper imported rice.

The country's rice output is expected to reach about 32 million tons this year.