Tue, 07 Nov 2000

Govt separates agriculture and forestry ministry

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Bungaran Saragih said on Monday that the government has decided to separate his ministry into two state ministries.

As of Monday, the ministry was divided into the State Ministry for Agriculture and the State Ministry for Forestry Affairs, he said.

"The agriculture ministry will focus on food resilience and the forestry ministry on strong agricultural businesses," Saragih told reporters.

Saragih said he would lead the ministry of agriculture, while the current Junior Minister for Forestry Affairs Nurmahmudi Ismail would lead the Ministry of Forestry Affairs.

The ministries of agriculture and forestry used to work independently until they were merged when President Abdurrahman Wahid reshuffled the Cabinet in August.

Separately, a group of economic ministers who met on Monday decided to raise the floor price of unhusked rice to Rp 1,500 (about 16 U.S. cents ) per kilogram from the current Rp 1,400 per kilogram.

The Office of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy issued a press statement saying that the increase was in anticipation of a surge in rice supplies during the harvest season in April next year.

Minister of Industry and Trade Luhut Pandjaitan said that the government needed to protect local farmers who were facing an influx of cheap imported rice.

The National Logistics Agency (Bulog) procures unhusked rice from farmers at the government's flour price.

The meeting also resulted in a decision to retain rice imports next year.

"To protect farmers' interests during the harvest season, the agency has also been advised to suspend the shipments of rice it has already ordered from foreign countries," the statement said.

It said that in case of a rice shortage, the government would direct shipments during harvest season only to the affected regions.

The government further insisted that civil servants and members of the armed and the police forces in regions with an acute shortage of rice must once again use their rice allowance funds to purchase rice from Bulog.

Protests over the low quality of Bulog's rice were among the reasons why the government had earlier allowed civil servants and members of the armed and polices forces to accept cash instead of rice.

This time, the statement said, the government would guarantee the quality of the rice Bulog sold.

"If the quality of the rice is not as stated in the contract, Bulog will replace it," the statement said. (bkm)