Wed, 18 Oct 2000

Govt to set standards for imported rice

JAKARTA (JP): The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will set standards of quality for imported rice in a bid to protect farmers from an influx of cheap rice, a senior official said on Tuesday.

"We hope the standards can be issued within the next one or two weeks," the director-general of food crops production, Syarifuddin Karama, said during a seminar on the problems facing Indonesia's rice farmers.

Syarifuddin said importers only would be allowed to import high-quality rice, a step meant to prevent the sale of imported rice from affecting the price of local rice.

Although Indonesia has set an import tariff of 10 percent on imported rice, an influx of cheap rice from Thailand and other Asian countries has caused a sharp drop in rice prices on the domestic market.

"With a limited supply of imported rice on the market, it is hoped that farmers will be able to sell their unhusked rice at the government's floor-price," Syarifuddin said.

The government set in December 1998 the floor-price for unhusked rice at between Rp 1,400 (16 U.S. cents) and Rp 1,500 a kilogram, but oversupply caused by an influx of imported rice and an increase in local production has caused prices to drop to between Rp 700 and Rp 900 a kilogram.

Syarifuddin said the quality standards would be imposed on rice imported by the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) as well as private importers.

He also said that this year domestic rice production would be enough to meet the national demand of some 30 million tons, the first time in 10 years the country will be self-sufficient in rice.

Production of unhusked rice this year is expected to reach 53 million tons, the equivalent of 30 million tons of milled rice, in addition to the rice stock of 1.7 million tons held by Bulog.

Despite achieving rice self-sufficiency, Syarifuddin said the government would continue importing high-quality rice to fill temporary gaps in production.

Indonesia first reached rice self-sufficiency in 1984, but declining rice production in 1990 forced the government to begin importing rice.

Rice imported by private companies reached 42,000 tons in January and 38,000 tons in February this year, and Bulog imported 1.45 million tons of rice in 1999. (10)