Mon, 02 Jun 2003

Rini to regulate rice imports

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Minister of Industry and Trade Rini M.S. Soewandi is planning to regulate rice imports in a bid to avoid a domestic oversupply amid the current harvest season.

Under the plan, rice imports can only enter the country through designated seaports.

Rini disclosed the plan during a hearing session with the House of Representatives Commission V on industry and trade affairs late last week.

She said that one of the options being considered was to limit rice imports only in non-producing areas.

"We are now in talks with relevant officials," she told lawmakers.

Currently, rice can enter the country via any seaport.

The price of unhusked rice has dropped to around Rp 800 per kilogram recently, compared to the government's target of Rp 1,095 per kg. Many said that the drop was mainly due to the influx of cheaper imported rice.

As the harvest season has begun, the fall in price would hurt the income of local farmers.

There have been growing calls for the government to take immediate steps, including demands for a temporary ban on rice imports, to protect local farmers.

While Rini was against such move previously, she now says that a temporary ban could also be considered as an option, if the supply from local farmers could meet domestic demand.

The country's rice output is expected to reach about 32 million tons.