Tara Marchelin, Jakarta – The Trade Ministry's data from 34 provinces are showing a reasonable national average price for staple food, except for sugar and garlic that have shown a significant increase.
The ministry's domestic trade director-general Suhanto said the government will ensure there's enough supply of staple food during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The government will ensure the supply of staple food during the pandemic is sufficient. However, people should refrain from panic buying, so prices remain stable in both traditional markets and modern supermarkets," Suhanto said during a virtual press conference aired at the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) headquarters in Jakarta on Wednesday.
Suhanto said the government has been importing some commodities to maintain food supply and keep prices stable.
On March 9, the Trade Ministry imported 11,000 tons of garlic out of a total expected order of 150,000 tons to meet local demand.
A day before that, the Trade Ministry had issued a ministerial regulation to waive import permits for garlic and onion to speed up their delivery.
Suhanto said the Agriculture Ministry's Quarantine Agency will also revoke quarantine requirements for imported garlic and onion.
"The Trade Ministry's Food Task Force is monitoring importers' warehouses to ensure no one is hoarding supplies. The average price of garlic has gone down to Rp 42,300 ($2.6) [per kilogram]," he said.
To stabilize the price of meat, Suhanto said the ministry had asked the National Procurement Agency (Bulog) to import 170,000 tons of buffalo meat.
"Bulog has issued the import permit [for the buffalo meat]. Hopefully, it will be available in the market before Ramadan," Suhanto said.
He also said Bulog will work with modern retail stores to distribute its rice supply, and that the agency will perform regular market monitoring until December 2020.
"At the moment, Bulog has 1.5 million tons of rice," Suhanto said.
According to Suhanto, the government will also import 216,000 tons of sugar by the end of March.
Another import of 550,000 tons of raw sugar has also been planned. But Suhanto assured that import would not interfere with domestic sugar production.
"The import is expected to fulfill local demand in April, May and June. According to the Agricultural Ministry, the milling season will fall at the end of June this year. The import will not interfere with local sugar production," Suhanto said.
The Food Task Force will also send sugar from Lampung to Java to lower the price in Indonesia's most populated island.
Suhanto admitted the average price of sugar nationally had rocketed to Rp 17,000 per kilogram, way above the recommended retail price set by the government of Rp 12,500 per kilogram.
"Sugar factories in Lampung still have a lot of supply. The factory owners have agreed to send 33,000 tons of sugar to Jakarta," he said.
The government has also asked several producers to turn 250,000 tons of refined sugar into crystal sugar ready for consumption, Suhanto said.
"The refined sugar is already available in the factories. To turn them into crystal sugar for consumption will take three to seven days," he said.