Indonesia says rice stock adequate amid sale restrictions, seeks imports from Thailand

Indonesia says rice stock adequate amid sale restrictions, seeks imports from Thailand

A worker drives a tractor on a rice field at Pontang village in Serang, Banten province, Indonesia, on April 26, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)
A worker drives a tractor on a rice field at Pontang village in Serang, Banten province, Indonesia, on April 26, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)

JAKARTA: Indonesia's government on Monday sought to assure consumers that rice stocks were adequate amid increasing sale restrictions in mini markets and supermarkets since the end of 2023.

"After a coordination meeting with the president, we assure that rice stocks are adequate, and we will speed up availability for modern retails," Head of the National Food Agency (NFA) Arief Prasetyo Adi told reporters on Monday.

Availability of five kilograms sacks at modern retail outlets have been reportedly scarce since around September last year, leading to a restriction for retail customers.

Head of retail business association (Aprindo), Roy Mandey, confirmed the restrictions, saying it was to ensure distribution and avoid reselling. He said the association was seeking to ensure availability.

According to a weekly inflation meeting broadcasted online on Monday, the price of rice had increased 1.65% by the middle of February.

Data from the agriculture ministry showed that the country had a rice deficit of 1.63 millions tonnes in January and 1.15 millions in February.

The NFA said Indonesia plans to import 2.44 million tonnes of rice in 2024, of which around 445,000 tonnes is a quota carried over from 2023.

Edy Priyono from the presidential staff office warned there were planting areas at high risk of flooding in January and February, which could delay harvesting.

Indonesia is seeking to import 200,000 metric tonnes of rice from Thailand under a government-to-government arrangement, its state food procurement agency (Bulog) said on Monday.

Bulog said earlier this month that it had contracted 500,000 metric tonnes of rice from Vietnam, Myanmar, and Pakistan.

Indonesia has already approved a 2 million tonne rice import quota this year, a quarter of which is expected to arrive by March, officials said. In 2023, it imported 3.06 million tonnes of the grain, a near-record.

Indonesia's initial forecast for 32 million metric tonnes of rice output in 2024 has been undercut by predictions that rice output in January and February is expected to drop 46% from a year ago to 2.25 million tonnes, officials said.

Output was disrupted last year by the dry El Nino weather pattern but production is expected to recover this year. The meteorological agency (BMKG) forecast El Nino would remain in early 2024 and gradually neutralise by April.

Last year, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said his government had secured commitment from India and Thailand to shore up supply for 2024.

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