Wed, 17 Feb 2010

From: The Jakarta Post

By Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Australia and New Zealand are reacting to Indonesia’s plans to improve the output of four food commodities through the new “food resilience” programs, Agriculture Minister Suswono says.

“Self-resilience programs are yet to start but New Zealand and Australia are already panicking,” Suswono said in a seminar on government agricultural development plans for the 2010-2014 period on Tuesday.

The food resilience programs are aiming at meeting self sufficiency in the domestic supply of soybean, corn, sugar and beef, the last being one of Australia’s and New Zealand’s main exports to Indonesia.

Indonesia plans to spend Rp 18 trillion (US$1.93 billion) on achieving self sufficiency within four years – with Rp 2 trillion specifically allocated to improving beef production.

Suswono said ambassadors and agriculture ministers from both countries had repeatedly asked to see him to learn more about these plans. A prominent Australian businessman is scheduled to meet him Thursday for the same reasons.

He acknowledged that the success of the program could consequently reduce imports of beef and live cattle from Australia and New Zealand, Indonesia’s main suppliers.

The ministry’s director for veterinary health Turni Rusli Sjamsudin says beef and carcass imports from Australia and New Zealand account for 95 percent of total beef imports.

Total imports, he said, amounted to 75,200 tons in 2009 and 70,000 tons in 2008, to help meet annual demand of around 400,000 tons, with demand growing by 3 to 4 percent annually.

Suswono said he had offered both countries opportunities to invest here if they were afraid of losing their export market.

“They can help us be resilient in food, while at the same time they will continue to benefit [from the Indonesian market],” he said, adding that the two countries seemed reluctant to invest in Indonesia.

Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu has said that under the free trade agreements between ASEAN and Australia and New Zealand, the two countries will provide Indonesia with capacity building projects to help boost Indonesia’s beef and dairy production in return for free entry of their beef and dairy products at zero tariff by 2020.

The two countries also, she says, will invest here. Bilateral agreements are still being negotiated.

In response to the anxiety of Australia and New Zealand, Indonesian Cattle and Buffalo Farmers Association (PPSKI) chairman Teguh Boediyana, who also attended the seminar, said it was normal for the two countries to object. “But it is the right of Indonesia [to achieve self sufficiency],” he said.

Australian Embassy spokesperson Jenny Dee said Australia was not panicking.

“Australian companies are interested to invest in Indonesia’s agricultural sector,” she said.

New Zealand Embassy media officer Awan Pusoro did not respond to the Jakarta Post’s questions.