Rice reserves in Indonesia need to be pushed to higher minimum levels. Currently the nation's rice stocks are estimated to range between 300,000 - 400,000 tons (per year). Given that Indonesia's agricultural output is being plagued by weather phenomenons, the existing low level of rice reserves can cause major problems. Rice, the favorite staple food crop of the Indonesian people, can cause accelerated inflation in times of shortages and push the millions of people living just above the poverty line into full poverty.
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As agreed last month, this November Indonesia will start importing about 1.5 million tons of rice from Vietnam. Earlier this year, Indonesia had already imported 60,000 tons of rice to stabilize rice prices as a spike in rice prices, which the government blamed on mark-ups by market traders, caused concern. Rice is the main staple food for the Indonesian population, implying that the poorer segments of society spend a relatively large portion of their disposable incomes on rice. This means that rice inflation can cause a surge in poverty.
In order to avert a spike in inflation and social unrest, Indonesian President Joko Widodo may feel forced to allow around 1.5 million metric tons of rice imports in 2015 as domestic prices of rice have been rising on sluggish local harvests. Moreover, an intensifying El Nino is expected to cause dry weather in the months ahead hence further jeopardizing rice productivity. These already tough conditions will be exacerbated by seasonal Islamic celebrations (Ramadan and Idul Fitri) that always trigger increased consumption of food products.
The price of rice in several Indonesian regions has risen by between 17 to 23 percent to IDR 8,500-9,000 per kilogram as rice production at the start of the year has not been able to meet rice demand. In January 2015, Indonesian rice production stood at 2 million tons, whereas demand reached 2.5 million tons. Inflation of rice is a sensitive issue in Indonesia because it jeopardizes declining poverty rates as poorer segments of Indonesian society spend over half of their total disposable income on food items, primarily rice.
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