INDONESIA, May 7 (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Shortage in key commodities has been reported in most of Indonesia’s 34 provinces as the nation copes with the double whammy of the coronavirus outbreak causing supply chain disruption and a dry spell hurting harvests.
Garlic, sugar, chili and chicken eggs are in short supply in more than 20 provinces, while rice, a staple food for Indonesians, is in deficit in seven provinces across the archipelago, according to government data presented by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
The data clash with the Agriculture Ministry’s claims that stockpiles, especially of Indonesia’s 11 key commodities, are “safe” and sufficient to meet nationwide demand during the annual peak consumption season of Ramadan, which began on April 24.
The Food Security Agency’s head of food availability and security, Andriko Noto Susanto, said Indonesia had recorded surpluses in the 11 key food commodities at the national level, and any shortages at the regional level were “a normal situation”.
“That is because there are provinces that serve as production centers, and there are those that do not, ” Andriko told The Jakarta Post in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Provinces not producing rice may record a short supply of rice.”
The Home Ministry went as far as encouraging district heads to empower local communities across Indonesia’s regions to plant their own staple foods, especially those in territories facing shortage. The COVID-19 pandemic will disrupt food supply within the country and around the world, exacerbating the situation.
Making matters worse, a dry season is looming on the horizon and may impact the overall output of the agriculture sector, which employs more than a quarter of the national workforce.
The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has projected that more than 30 percent of the country’s regions, including parts of Bali, Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi, might face an unusually harsh dry season this month.
“So there are two challenges right now: climate change and supply chain disruption due to the outbreak, ” Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef) researcher Dhenny Yuartha told The Jakarta Post.
Of the 11 commodities, sugar, garlic and beef are the most at risk of short supply. The Food Security Agency has suggested speeding up the import of 207,743 tons of garlic, 85,474 tons of beef and 622,123 tons of sugar to ensure enough supplies for the April–June period.
For sugar, for instance, shortages have been recorded in 30 provinces, causing prices to soar to Rp 18,250 (US$1.21) per kilogram, 46 percent higher than the government’s price ceiling of Rp 12,500 per kg.
Dhenny said the shortages and soaring prices were mainly caused by late imports and disrupted supply chains. East Java, the country’s largest sugar cane producer, is a COVID-19 red zone.
Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS) researcher Galuh Octania said the government should pay utmost attention to food stocks beyond November, because some of the regions hit by the worse-than-normal dry season were staple food production centers.
President Jokowi has ordered his administration to store rainwater and start filling reservoirs, retention ponds and other artificial water storages to mitigate the impact. The government is also easing import processes to ensure sufficient food stocks, although the logistics of this are challenging as some producing countries have imposed lockdowns.
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