Jakarta. Indonesia plans to export 200,000 tons of rice to China and several other countries next month, in a move that highlights the country's confidence in its resiliency facing the looming global recessions and spiking inflations.
The country has been struggling with the rising cooking oil price in the past few months and needed to increase subsidies spending to dampen the impact of spiking global energy prices. Still, the government felt confident enough that additional pressure would not come from rice, the staple for 271 million of the country's population.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo conveyed the export plan at a meeting with seven general chairmen of political parties at the State Palace before a cabinet reshuffle that replaced two ministers on Wednesday.
"Indonesia is far from a recession-hit country. In fact, Indonesia is planning to export rice instead," the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto, who is also Golkar Party chairman, said in a meeting with local media chief editors in Jakarta on Wednesday.
Surya Paloh, the chairman of the National Democratic Party (Nasdem), expressed his surprise about the country's plan to export its precious rice amid rising costs for major food commodities in the global market.
"I didn't expect Indonesia to be able to export rice. I even had my doubts because a few days earlier, the agriculture minister was rumored to be among those who would be reshuffled," Paloh told the chief editors in a separate meeting on Thursday.
Minister of Agriculture Syahrul Yasin Limpo told the Globe sister publication BeritaSatu.com that several countries had lined up to buy Indonesia's rice. "It's not only China that asks for our rice. Malaysia too," he said.
Indonesia is one of the countries predicted to escape recessions. When world energy prices soared, the value of Indonesia's commodity exports increased. "The Indonesian economy will benefit from the windfall profit from commodity exports," Airlangga said.
Still, Paloh warned Indonesia should not be careless and take the current situation for granted.
"The president has asked the leaders of political parties to maintain stability. Because during a recession, Indonesia must be stable, both politically and economically," Paloh said.
The government, said Airlangga, will control inflation, among others, by maintaining the subsidized fuel and electricity prices.
The Coordinating Minister for the Economy explained that the government continues to monitor inflation stemming from fluctuations in energy and food prices
in the global market. The Russia-Ukraine war and price spikes in global energy and food have triggered an increase in inflation in various countries.
"Next year, inflation, especially from imported food, will be relatively safe because our dependence on imports of imported food, such as wheat, has been handled well by the domestic food and beverage industry," Airlangga said.
He added that Indofood Sukses Makmur, the country's largest noodle maker, has secured wheat shipments until September. "They have secured it from the US and Australia," Airlangga said.
On the production side, according to Airlangga Hartarto, changes in climate are also not expected to interfere with food domestic production. "We are safe from climate change because in the past three years we have not imported rice. So, until the end of the year Indonesia is estimated to have a surplus of rice," he said.
Indonesia posted surpluses in rice production in the past three years and exported a total of 4 million tons during the period, data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) showed.
The country produced 14.6 million metric tons of rice in the January-April period this year, up 7.7 percent from 13.6 million metric tons in the same period last year. During the first four months period, the country exported around 440.000 metric tons of rice, the BPS data showed.