Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government has decided to import 50 thousand heads of cattle and to conduct market operations as a short-term solution to overcome the current shortage of beef in various regions.

"During a coordination meeting, the government has decided to import cattle and conduct market operations to provide a short-term solution to the scarcity of meat in the market. The market operations will be conducted by the State Logistics Agency (Bulog)," Chief Economic Minister Sofyan Djalil stated on Monday.

For this purpose, the government will issue a permit to Bulog to import 50 thousand slaughter cattle.

"This is a very short-term policy. A mid-term policy until the end of the year should first be reported to the president," Djalil remarked during a joint press conference with Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel and Bulog President Director Djarot Kusumayakti.

He noted that the imported cattle would be slaughtered once they arrive in the country to meet the publics beef requirement. The government also hoped that the feedlot farmers would also release their cattle, so that the meat traders would return to their regular activities again.

Meat traders in several regions across the country have gone on strike and have temporarily stopped selling beef over the past few days. Beef traders in Bakasi, a Jakarta buffer town, for instance, stopped selling the commodity.

The move to temporarily stop the sale of meat on August 10-12, 2015, was called for by the Meat Traders Association of Jakarta and its satellite towns of Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, and Bekasi (Jabodetabek).

"The price of meat now burdens the consumers as it continues to increase after the fasting month of Ramadan in July from Rp95 thousand per kilogram (kg) to Rp145 thousand per kg," Sunarti (44), a beef trader at Pasar Jatiasih market in Bekasi, remarked on Sunday.

Responding to a question on the reason behind the price of meat reaching Rp140 thousand per kg in several provinces, Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel stated that he was launching a field check to unearth the causes.

"We are studying the causes. The average price of meat per kg in 30 provinces is over Rp100 thousand per kg. In the remaining four provinces, the price is lower than that," the trade minister pointed out.

He clarified that cattle stocks at the feedlot level were in fact adequate to meet the demand for meat in the coming two to three months.

"I have just spoken to Agriculture Minister (Andi Amran Sulaiman). We have found that stocks at the feedlot level can meet the demand for meat for up to two to three months. So, the shortage of supplies must have been caused by a deliberate act to withhold stocks. This is a crime," Gobel affirmed at Kramatjadi Wholesale Market on Monday.

He explained that if stocks at the feedlot level were released in the market, the import "tap" will also be reopened to meet the meat requirements of the public.

Regarding the scarcity of beef in the market due to the strike by beef traders, the minister made assurance that his side had coordinated with the Ministry of Agriculture and the police to discuss the issue of meat shortage.

"I have coordinated with the agriculture minister and the head of the National Police (Polri) to discuss the scarcity of stocks as a result of the strike by traders. The strike, which has been called for by the cow traders association, has basically disturbed the activities of the nations economy, which is now facing gloomy conditions," the trade minister remarked.

Agriculture Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman claimed that at the feedlot level, the stocks of meat are actually adequate to meet the need for the commodity in the coming four months.

"We have conducted on-field checks and have held discussions with the owners of cattle ranches. Based on our calculations with the trade ministry, stocks are available and are adequate to meet the need for the commodity for four months," he noted during a press conference on handling the drought on Monday.

Sulaiman explained that based on his field checks, his ministry had found a stock of 221 thousand head of cattle.

"The latest estimate now places the number of cattle stocks at 160 thousand head, which is adequate for four months on the basis of the calculation that the monthly consumption is 40 thousand," Sulaiman said.

Although he acknowledged the upward trend in the prices of beef, the minister hoped that the police would take firm action against those found guilty as there were indications of violations in the distribution of the commodity.

Police Chief Badrodin Haiti stated that his rank and file have been tasked with the duty of ensuring security in line with the price hikes and the shortage of food commodities.

"We should also ensure the sound implementation of import procedures. If a business entity designs a maneuver that increases our dependence on imports and disadvantages domestic products, we will take necessary actions based on the law against the violators," the Police chief emphasized.

He said the modus operandi of these fraudulent importers also vary, including hoarding commodities.

"We will take action against businesspersons found conducting unfair trade practices in an effort to improve the business climate," he stressed.

Over the past few days, the price of beef has shot up to Rp130 thousand-Rp140 thousand per kg, far above the average normal price of Rp90 thousand per kg.

In the meantime, Bulog affirmed its readiness to launch market operations, with its current available stock of 465 tons.

"Bulog will focus its market operations in regions where the price of meat has been increasing, such as in Jakarta, West Java, and Serang in Banten," Bulog President Director Djarot Kusumayakti stated.

Bulog revealed that it would expand its market operations to other regions but would first take into account its stock of only 465 tons.

"We cannot respond to all," Kusumayakti noted.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla has pledged to solve problems related to the availability of beef to ensure its smooth supply in the country.

"We will study them to find out where the problems originate. If it is about the supply chain, we will streamline it. But first, we have to find out the real cause behind the problems," he noted on Monday.

The depleting stocks of beef in several regions have caused the prices to soar as a result of which consumers have stopped buying the product, and the traders then went on strike that day demanding the prices to be brought back to normal.


Reporter: Andi Abdussalam
Editor: Jafar M Sidik
Copyright © ANTARA 2015