Sat, 02 Dec 2000

Luhut sees no problem with food supplies for holidays

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Industry and Trade Luhut B. Panjaitan gave assurances on Friday that stocks of food supplies, such as rice, sugar, beef, and cooking oil, were sufficient to meet the expected surge in demand over the Christmas, Idul Fitri, and New Year holidays.

"As you've heard, our food stocks are sufficient to get us through the holidays. If there should happen to be any shortfalls it will be mainly due to disruption of the distribution system as a result of bad weather," he said after a meeting with food suppliers at his office.

He said that bad weather and heavy rain might continue over the coming weeks and could disrupt the distribution of food supplies in several parts of the country.

"Heavy winds in the east of Indonesia have also caused difficulties for ships carrying cattle to Java," Luhut said.

He asked the police, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, as well as the Ministry of Settlement and Regional Infrastructure to coordinate their efforts and immediately resolve any distribution problems.

Chairman of the Indonesian Food and Beverages Association (Gapmmi) Thomas Darmawan said producers would not be operating between Dec. 22 and Jan. 8.

"They will make up for the break in production by producing more food and beverages in advance," he explained at the meeting.

Thomas said that most supermarkets would remain open over the holidays with a few opening in the afternoon on Idul Fitri.

He assured consumers that the price of foodstuffs in supermarkets would remain stable despite the buying spree that usually takes place several days before the long year-end holidays. But he said that the price of foodstuffs in traditional markets was outside of his control.

Producers of cooking oil claimed that the price of branded cooking oil would remain stable during the holidays, but non- branded cooking oil prices were liable to increase if the dealers took advantage of the higher demand.

Luhut said that the price of non-branded cooking oil surveyed in Jakarta markets ranged between Rp 3,400 ($0.37) a liter in September to Rp 3,180 a liter on Nov. 30.

Chairman of the Indonesian Beef Producers and Feedlot Association (Apfindo) Yudi Guntara Noor said that the price of beef in Java may rise during the holidays because of a drop in local beef production.

The association, which supplies only imported beef, or about 20 percent to 30 percent of the total beef supply, claimed that price levels at the slaughterhouses had not changed.

"The price of high quality beef from the slaughterhouse is Rp 28,000 a kilogram. If newspaper reports say it is higher, then it has been increased by the retailers," he said.

Yudi added that the association had supplied 30,000 head of cattle to cover this month's demand, twice the usual monthly supply.

National beef consumption needed a supply of about 1.45 million head of cattle per year, comprising 1.2 million local and 250,000 imported beasts, Yudi said, adding that each beast yielded about 200 kilograms of edible meat.

"There are indications that local beef production has dropped because of the difficulties in transporting animals due to high winds in eastern Indonesia," he said, adding that local beef was supplied from ranches in West Nusatenggara, East Nusatenggara, South Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, and North Sulawesi.

Yudi said that because of the drop in supply, customers were turning to imported beef as an alternative.

"But the supply of imported beef won't be able to cover the shortfall in the local beef supply," he said.

The National Logistics Agency (Bulog) reported more than 1.36 million tons of rice stored in warehouses around the country as of Nov. 30, with about 146,000 tons in Jakarta alone.

This would be enough to last for more than six months, the agency said.

National Sugar Council executive Sutoyo said that the national sugar supply for this year's holidays had increased 12 percent to about 1.68 million tons compared to last year. This figure comprised some 600,000 tons of remaining stocks and more than one million tons of previously imported sugar.

"This will be enough to last four months," he said.

The Indonesian Poultry Association warned that the price of hen eggs may rise gradually over the next few weeks, peaking on Idul Fitri at about 15 percent higher than the normal price.

In order to anticipate any difficulties in distribution, the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications has prepared 20 ships from the state-owned shipping line PT Pelni as an alternative to sending goods overland.

The Ministry of Settlement and Regional Infrastructure has stationed heavy machinery in avalanche-prone areas, and provided pumps for roads liable to flooding.

"The areas that will have to be monitored carefully are the roads on the north and south coasts of Java and the trans-Sumatra highway," Luhut said. (tnt)