The only onions left at a stall in Palima Market in Palembang, South Sumatra, on March 3. (Antara Photo/Feny Selly)

'Food Watch' Task Force to Keep Hoarders, Naughty Sellers Away


MARCH 13, 2020

Jakarta. Deputy Trade Minister Jerry Sambuaga said his ministry will closely monitor prices of food and basic supplies as long as the Covid-19 outbreak lasts in order to keep them under control.

"We have a food task force to track anyone who stockpiles food and basic supplies. The team also scours markets for merchants who engage in price gouging," Jerry said in Jakarta on Thursday.

The food task force will ensure food supply and prices are under control amid fears that a prolonged Covid-19 outbreak will result in shortages. 

Jerry advised people not to worry about food supply during Ramadan, when consumption typically soars. 

In response to the Covid-19 outbreak in China, where the Sars-CoV-2 virus was first transmitted from animals to humans, the government still prohibits import od live animals from the country, but exports to China from Indonesia are starting to return to normal.

"We don't allow livestock import [from China], but processed food is safe [to import]. Our focus is on making sure we have the food stock under control," Jerry said.

However, in local markets customers have been complaining of skyrocketing prices for garlic and onion – the two most imported products from China.

In both traditional and supermarkets the price of garlic and onion has more than tripled. The Trade Ministry is currently looking for other countries to import onions from.

According to Jerry, to steady trade balance and achieve its export target, Indonesia has been considering other countries as trade partners to diversify its export-import efforts.

Some of these are Latin American countries including Chile and Paraguay.

"The president [Joko Widodo] has told us to expand our export options," Jerry said.

Jerry also revealed Indonesia is in the process of wrapping up several trade agreements, including the Indonesia-Australia comprehensive economic partnership agreement.

"We [Indonesia and Australia] have agreed to buy and sell car parts, dairy products, agricultural products, etc.," Jerry said.