Sat, 06 Mar 1999

Govt won't sign new rice import contracts

JAKARTA (JP): The government will not sign new contracts for rice imports this year in order to ease pressures on the price of locally produced rice, Minister of Agriculture Soleh Solahuddin said on Friday.

Soleh said import contracts secured last year are sufficient to compensate for the shortfall in local supply.

"The government will honor the existing import contracts but we will not sign new contracts. The old contracts will be enough to meet the predicted shortfall of 2.5 million metric tons of milled rice this year," he said in a news conference.

This year, the government has set a production targets of at least 52 million tons of unhusked rice, or around 32.86 million tons of milled rice, an increase from the 46.3 million tons of unhusked rice produced last year.

It is expected to import about 2 million tons of milled rice this year.

However, the Central Bureau of Statistic predicted the country could only produce 48.6 million tons of unhusked rice this year.

Soleh said 300,000 tons of imported rice would arrive in Indonesia within the next two months.

"But Bulog (the State Logistics Agency) will delay the delivery date until the end of harvesting season in June in order to control the price of rice produced by local farmers," he said.

Bulog has a total import commitment of 4.6 million tons of rice for the 1998/1999 fiscal year ending in March. Around 3.9 million tons of which have been delivered. (gis)