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Indonesia mulls rice imports from India

Indonesia mulls rice imports from India

JAKARTA:The government is considering importing rice from India, the world’s second-largest rice producer, in anticipation of insufficient supply in the near future.
Trade Minister Thomas Lembong said on Wednesday his ministry was seeking to diversify import sources for rice, the country’s main staple food.
“We also encourage the signing of a memorandum of understanding [MOU] with India, because India has become the largest rice exporter in recent years,” he said.
India’s rice exports had reached a value of US$3 billion to $4 billion per year, he added. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), India exported around 10 million tons of rice both in 2013 and 2014, displacing Thailand as the world’s largest exporter. Thailand is, however, forecast to reclaim its top spot this year.
The data has also reveals that India has become the second-largest rice grower, after China.
The Trade Minister recently signed an MOU with Pakistan to secure rice imports from the South Asian country after previously failing to secure commitments for more imports from Vietnam and Thailand, because the Philippines had already bought the commodity from the two countries.
In the fourth quarter of last year, the government was a little too late in securing additional rice imports to stabilize domestic prices amid insufficient domestic supply, giving enough time for the Philippines — which also experienced a lack of supply —―to secure commitments from Vietnam and Thailand.
Indonesia had planned to import a total of 1.5 million tons of rice from Thailand and Vietnam last year, but only 1 million tons were realized.
On the other hand, the Philippines, which used to import around 500,000 to 700,000 tons of rice a year, imported an unusually large volume of 1.5 million tons from the two Southeast Asian rice exporters last year.
Thomas said previously that while imports from Pakistan had not been realized yet, the Pakistani government had explained that it could supply around 500,000 tons of rice to Indonesia.
“The State Logistics Agency [Bulog] is studying detailed Pakistani rice supply,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bulog procurement director Wahyu said Bulog’s rice stocks stood at 1.38 million tons as of Wednesday, and he estimated that the country would not need to import in the next four months. “There hasn’t been any order for additional imports from Pakistan so far,” he added.
Separately, Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman said he was upbeat that rice production would increase, as his ministry had been taking precautionary measures for possible La Niña weather phenomenon this year. La Niña, widely seen as El Niño’s opposite, typically brings more rainfall, threatening crops with flooding.