Agriculture minister boasts rice self sufficiency amid import controversy

Agriculture minister boasts rice self sufficiency amid import controversy

Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman. (ANTARA /izaac mulyawan)

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman said one of the achievements the government could be proud of is that the country has not imported rice in the past two years.

Amran`s statement came when the government has triggered an uproar over plan to import 500,000 tons of rice from Vietnam and Thailand this month.

"We want to say a number of achievements that in 2016-2017 there was no import of medium rice," he said when speaking at a national working meeting of the agriculture ministry here on Monday.

The minister said similarly the country has been able to stop imports of onion and corn, adding previously the country had to spend Rp12 trillion for the imports of 3.6 million tons of corn a year.

On the contrary, Indonesia plans to export corn grains, he said.

"This is a new era for Indonesia. A number of other countries have asked what Indonesia has done to be able to stop importing corn in so short time. What I told them that we only work, work and work," he said.

He said the country has also taken a big step to become an exporter from a big importer of red onion in a few years, adding the country has exported red onion to six other countries.

"In 2014 , we still a regular importer of red onion but today we have exported that commodity to six countries," he said.

He restrained from commenting on the plan to import rice beyond saying, "thanks God we have passed two years without rice import."

Meanwhile, observers said the import plan serves a big blow to farmers, who have worked hard hoping that they would have better days after the harvest.

General chairman of the Indonesian Association of Farmers and Fisherman (KTNA) Winarno Tohir expressed disappointment of the government`s plan to import rice when grand harvest is expected to take place only a few week to come.

Even if the rice stock of Bulog has been shrinking, it is still enough to cover the requirement before the harvest takes place. Grand harvest is expected early next month.

Winarno said the import plan is against the Presidential Decree banning rice import one month before and two months after harvest. In addition, normally rice import was decided in coordinating meeting of economic ministers.

The government has apparently been worried with the increase in the price of the strategic commodity lately when the country is to hold regional elections.

Trade Ministry said the imports is a short term solution and it would not hurt the farmers as the imported rice is a special type not not the medium rice.

South Sulawesi Governor Syahrul Yasin Limpo said the province is ready to supply rice to area having rice scarcity.

"South Sulawesi has large surplus enough to feed the province for 20 months. Here we have 82,000 tons in stock. The surplus could supply other 33 province with 2,000 tons each. In March, our surplus would rise to 2.6 million tons with the coming grand harvest," the governor said.

(T.SYS/A/H-ASG/F001)

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