Jakarta (ANTARA News) - In the run-up to the fasting month of Ramadan that begins at the end of next week, the prices of commodities are now showing an upward trend, particularly outside Java.

Among the commodities, the price of garlic has been rising, shooting up from about Rp30 thousand per kilogram (kg) to Rp50 thousand per kg. However, with the government conducting market operations, supplying some 58 thousand tons of imported garlic, and carrying out raids on hoarders, the price of the commodity was successfully lowered to about Rp25 thousand-Rp30 thousand per kg.

"After we arrested three suspects for allegedly stocking up garlic, five hours later, the price of the commodity went down to Rp25 thousand per kg, or about 44 percent," Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman stated after launching a garlic market operation at the Pasar Osowilangun Market in Surabaya, East Java, on Friday.

The government is doing its best to lower the prices of basic commodities in the face of the fasting month. It hopes that the price of garlic would be lowered to below the Rp30 thousand-per-kg level. While conducting the market operations, the government and large distributors agreed on three price levels. Garlic imported from India should be sold at between Rp10 thousand and Rp15 thousand per kg, while that imported from China to be sold at Rp23 thousand per kg.

About 99.25 percent of the domestic demand for garlic is met by imports from China. It is estimated that the total annual imports of garlic stood at about 480-500 thousand tons. The supplies are imported from China, India, the US, Switzerland, and Malaysia.

Since early this year, the price of garlic in the domestic market has continued to increase. In May 2017, the average price of garlic is about Rp50,680 per kg, up 31.5 percent from Rp38,554 per kg recorded in January 2017.

According to Minister Sulaiman, garlic hoarding is one of the reasons for an increase in the price of the commodity. At least 182 tons of garlic had been found stocked up by PT LBU company in the Marunda area, North Jakarta, on Wednesday (May 17). This hoarding led the garlic price to shoot up to between Rp55 thousand and Rp60 thousand per kg.

The minister, National Police Deputy Chief Com. Gen. Syafruddin, and Jakarta Regional Metro Jaya Police Chief Insp. Gen. Iriawan uncovered the piled up garlic stock at the Marunda area.

The police arrested the alleged suspects. After the arrests, the prices of garlic in markets in Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, and Bekasi gradually went down. The price is expected to drop from an average of Rp45 thousand per kg in the areas to below Rp38 thousand per kg at the consumers level based on the agreement among the trade ministry, agriculture ministry, and 42 importer companies.

Head of Basic Necessities and Food Control Task Force of the National Polices Criminal Investigation Department Brig. Gen. Agung Setya remarked that the discovery of 182 tons of hoarded garlic was based on the information received from the agriculture ministry two days earlier.

The police also urged its forces at the district, provincial, and headquarter levels to cooperate with several institutions, such as the agriculture ministry, State Logistics Board Bulog, and the commission for business competition and supervision, to take firm action against alleged garlic hoarders.

The government immediately took actions against the company. "I have met with the Minister of Trade, and yesterday the trade ministry revoked the license (of the importer)," Minister Sulaiman said.

The minister said besides revoking the importers permit, he was also convinced that the company will no longer do garlic business again in Indonesia, because it has caused unrest among the people, especially in the run-up to the holy month of Ramadan this year.

"Three suspects have also been named for hoarding garlic in Marunda, which is currently being handled by the police," he said adding that the government has made price agreement with major suppliers but there is still a higher price in the market. After checking it in the field, it found garlic being hoarded in Marunda,

He said in order to prevent price hikes the government through the Ministry of Trade has reached a consensus with 42 import entrepreneurs that the price of garlic is set at not more than Rp38 thousand per kilogram.

Besides handling hoarders to maintain price stability, the government also import garlic and conduct market operations across the country.

The Agriculture Ministry has supplied 58 tons of imported garlic to the Kramat Jati wholesale market in East Jakarta to curb the price of the commodity ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan.

The garlic, imported from China, was sent to the wholesale market in two container trucks and will be sold at Rp25 thousand per kilogram as compared to the earlier price of Rp60 thousand per kilogram.

"This morning, the price has dropped. We will sell the garlic for Rp25 thousand per kilogram as compared to Rp45 thousand per kilogram previously. This means that the price has fallen by 44 percent. The company that sent the garlic will supply the commodity in at least two container trucks to the wholesale market every day. Hence, there is no reason for the price of garlic to become volatile," Minister Sulaiman stated in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Market operations included those conducted in Surabaya, East Java. During a market intervention at the Osowilangun Market, Surabaya, it was found that distributors sold the commodity at Rp23 thousand per kg, and its retail price is expected to reach less than Rp30 thousand per kg.

"(Market operations) have already been held in Jakarta and Bandung. Two weeks ago, the garlic price had soared to Rp50 thousand per kg, but now, it has declined by 44 percent," Sulaiman noted in Surabaya on Friday (May 19).

Some nine thousand tons of garlic would soon be distributed in the market, the minister noted, adding that the additional supply is expected to reduce the commoditys price at the consumer level.

"Starting today, the price of garlic is Rp23 thousand per kg at the distributor level. Retailers are expected to sell them at a maximum price of Rp30 thousand per kg. For those who violate the regulation, this will be their last day to sell garlic in Indonesia," Sulaiman stressed.


Reporter: Andi Abdussalam
Editor: Jafar M Sidik
Copyright © ANTARA 2017