Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The government needs to improve its data on rice production, as accurate figures will be important in deciding whether the country requires rice imports or not.

Last month, there was a debate as to whether Indonesia needed to import rice, mainly because data on rice production was not the same at a number of state agencies.

Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita had permits for the importation of two million tons of rice this year, saying imports were needed to guarantee adequate stocks, in anticipation of shortfall in domestic supplies.

Therefore, observers and the ombudsman called upon the government to improve its data. Further, Vice President Jusuf Kalla, on Monday, said that there was no need to import rice, as the state logistics board (Bulog) still had adequate stocks of rice, reaching 2.2 million tons.

Al-Azhar University Criminal Law Observer Suparji Ahmad has recommended that the debate about the differences in data about rice should be resolved.

"The State Audit Board (BPK) must dare to audit it thoroughly. The difference in data is too great, and this concerns the lives of many people," Suparji said.

According to Suparji, BPK audit results can be used by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) as preliminary data if there are indications of fraud.

A similar view was made by Jakarta State University`s (UNJ`s) political observer Ubedillah Badrun. He called the data mismatch reasonable, as will be seen if investigated.

All survey institutions of the government, according to Ubedillah, should coordinate with each other, not only on the matter of conducting the survey, but also on the proper methodology that can be used academically.

He explained that there are two possibilities if an agency has different data. The first is that there is a methodological error. The second possibility is that there is something triggered by certain interests behind the figure.

Indonesian Ombudsman Commissioner Ahmad Alamsyah Saragih advised the government to audit the rice stock and the capacity of all warehouses of the State Logistics Board to obtain data on the actual conditions.

"The government must audit the stock of the logistics board, including its warehouse capacity to find out what the situation is actually like. Is the stock abundant, is it enough or not?" Ahmad Alamsyah Saragih said.

The government, in this case the Ministry of Agriculture, has this year set a target of unhulled rice production at 80 million tons.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), by applying a new method of calculating rice production, there would merely be some 56.54 million tons of unhulled rice production this year.

The gap in data about rice was revealed after BPS released the 2018 rice production surplus, which only reached 2.8 million tons, far below the Ministry of Agriculture`s data or calculations.

Based on the Ministry of Agriculture`s official website, this year`s rice surplus would reach 13.03 million tons.

The calculation is made for 2018 based upon the unhulled rice production of 80 million tons, or 46.5 million tons of rice equivalent, while the total national rice consumption is only 33.47 million tons.

According to Vice President Jusuf Kalla, with the BPS method of calculation, unhulled production will only be 56.54 million tons, not 80 millions as set earlier.

"Do not forget that, with the production of 56.54 million tons of dry-milled rice grains, we still have a surplus. If we say that we have 80 million tons of dry-milled rice grains, but we still import, people will laugh at us," he said.

Therefore, Vice President Jusuf Kalla has hinted that the Indonesian Government would not implement its rice import policy because rice stocks at the warehouses of Bulog, the state-owned logistics company, remain sufficient.

"We have no plan to import rice now, because we do not meet any of the required conditions to do so. The rice stock at Bulog`s warehouses is recorded at 2.2 million tons, and the retail price of rice also remains stable," he said here on Monday. (Oct 22)

Speaking to journalists after chairing a limited meeting for improving the method of calculating rice production, Jusuf Kalla said one of the conditions for importing rice is whether Bulog`s rice stock had reached less than one million tons.

The second condition was related to the retail price of rice, which increased 10 percent from the price ceilings that the government has previously set, he said, adding that there were no acceptable reasons for importing rice at the moment.

Head of the State Logistics Board (Bulog) Budi Waseso and Agriculture Minister Andi Amran were virtually against the rice imports.

Indonesia will not need to import rice, as it has adequate supply of the staple commodity to meet demand until June 2019, Budi Waseso stated.

Waseso told the press in Jakarta last month (Sept 19) that he had formed a team involving the Agriculture Ministry, Bulog, and independent experts to analyze the national rice demand and supply.

"The team has recommended that we do not need to import until June 2019. Moreover, Bulog might also not have to release its imported rice stock. We have to maintain it. We should not rely on imports," Waseso, popularly known as Buwas, revealed.

(T.A014/A/KR-BSR/A014) 24-10-2018 00:29:38

Reporter: Andi Abdussalam
Editor: Andi Abdussalam
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