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Homese asiaIndonesian President Jokowi says rice stock sufficient amid rising prices

Indonesian President Jokowi says rice stock sufficient amid rising prices

JAKARTA – President Joko Widodo on Monday said Indonesia has sufficient rice stock at home, seeking to allay concerns about supplies as prices of the staple hit multi-year highs due to periods of drought and low output.

Rice prices rose at the fastest pace in over a decade in August, even as the inflation rate remained relatively low.

The average climbed as much as 16 per cent from the same month a year earlier to 14,000 rupiah (S$1.24) per kilogram.

This is the highest since at least March 2017, when records began, central bank data showed.

Mr Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, said Indonesia has 1.6 million tonnes of government-owned rice stock in warehouses.

Another 400,000 tonnes of imported supply are currently being shipped.

“Normally we only have 1.2 million tonnes, now we have 2 million tonnes. So we do not need to worry,” Mr Jokowi said after visiting a warehouse owned by state food procurement company Bulog in Bogor, near the country’s capital Jakarta.

The president launched an 8 trillion rupiah rice assistance programme from the warehouse.

Under the initiative, the government will hand out 640,000 tonnes of rice to 21.35 million low-income households over three months.

Mr Jokowi said the programme is aimed at shielding low-income households from rising rice prices.

Rice is a staple for most of Indonesia’s 270 million people and price movement is politically sensitive, especially ahead of elections due in February.

The National Food Agency estimated drought in parts of the tropical country, worsened by the El Nino weather phenomenon, could shrink rice output by 5 per cent to 7 per cent in 2023 from 31.54 million tonnes in 2022.

Indonesia has authorised 2.3 million tonnes of rice imports this year to blunt the impact of El Nino.

However, 453,000 tonnes has yet to be contracted, a Bulog official told a separate coordination meeting on food supply on Monday.

Mr Jokowi, who has just returned from the G-20 leaders’ summit in India, said he has been talking to countries including Cambodia, China and Bangladesh to seek a standby agreement for future import needs.

Bulog typically imports from major sellers Thailand, Vietnam and India. REUTERS

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