Govt may import rice to strengthen stocks

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The government did not rule out the possibility that it would import rice to strengthen national stocks, a minister said.

Speaking to the press after a plenary cabinet meeting at the Presidential Office here on Thursday, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa said however that the government would try its best to optimize national rice production to safeguard stocks.

The National Logistics Agency (Bulog) was currently holding rice stocks 1.6 million tons, he said.

"We will buy as much local rice as possible to strengthen stocks as we still have six months to go. However, we don`t want to take any risks particularly those related to rice stocks," he said.

Despite an upward trend in national rice production, the threat of climate change remained. Even several parts of the country were currently facing drought, he said.

"We don`t want to react only when threat comes. Therefore, we are preparing to raise stocks," he said.

Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu meanwhile said the government would not take a risk so that it would import rice if needed.

"We have a parameter. If stocks decline to certain quantities we will import rice. But we have not decided the quantity and type of rice," she said.

The rice imports were merely designed to safeguard stocks particularly at the end of this year as well as to anticipate a rice shortage in a number of areas in the country due to drought, she said.

Hatta said the government would conduct large-scale market operations across the country in case of a significant increase in the price of the staple.

In addition, he said the government would also continue to distribute subsidized rice for the poor according to the timetable of each region. (*)

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