Rice is a crucial commodity, particularly for Asia where most of the population is dependent on rice as the basic staple food that is consumed on a daily basis (and usually multiple times per day). It is estimated that more than 90 percent of rice is produced and consumed in Asia. Hence, rice consumption and production in the West is rather insignificant (although rice does have a centuries-long history in the West and thus there also developed specific European rice culinary specialties such as the risotto in Italy or the paella in Spain). Thus, rice-producing Asia is a net exporter of rice to the rest of the world.
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23 February 2021 (closed)
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Today's Headlines Rice Consumption
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.
Indonesian Agriculture Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman has a strong suspicion that the "rice mafia" is behind the recent fluctuations in rice supply and prices in Indonesia. Suspicion emerged after new rice supplies suddenly 'flooded' Indonesian markets in February when prices of rice had already risen due to the scarcity of supplies. Sulaiman believes there is a cartel consisting of six big Indonesian rice distributors that deliberately hid rice output after last year's harvest and waited for prices to rise significantly before supplying rice to the markets in order to see higher profits.
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.
Often the lack of quality and quantity of infrastructure in Indonesia has been cited as a reason for limited economic growth. Lack of adequate infrastructure causes the country's logistics costs to rise steeply, thus reducing competitiveness and attractiveness of the investment climate. Also in the country’s natural resources sector Indonesia’s infrastructure problems hamper development. For instance, the lack of quality irrigation to supply ample quantities of water to rice basins causes rice production to be far from optimal.
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