Dzulfiqar Fathur Rahman, Jakarta – Indonesia's exports of agricultural commodities have continued despite logistical disruptions caused by measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Agriculture Ministry officially dispatched a shipment of 94,000 tons of agricultural commodities including mangosteen, ornamental plants, coconut water, nutmeg and cloves last week to 43 countries in Asia and Europe through the country's nine main ports.
In April, Indonesia exported nearly 1.5 million tons of at least 166 types of agricultural products, which were valued at Rp 26.8 trillion (US$1.7 billion).
"We have noticed that our exports have continued amid the COVID-19 pandemic," the ministry's Agriculture Quarantine Agency head, Ali Jamil, said in an online briefing on April 30.
The fast-spreading coronavirus, which has infected over 3 million people worldwide, has forced some countries to temporarily impose lockdown measures to contain the spread of the virus, causing logistical disruptions.
The disruptions have in part caused the volume of Indonesia's agricultural exports to decline slightly by 0.1 percent year-on-year (yoy) to 9 million tons between January and March. In March, agricultural exports accounted for 2.25 percent of the country's total exports.
However, the ministry reported the export value rose 14.35 percent yoy to around Rp 100 trillion between January and March. Of the four subsectors, only food crop exports showed a decline, losing 14 percent of its value.
With the pandemic having an impact on food availability, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned countries that it is important to ensure that trade restrictions do not distort the global market.
The Trade Ministry temporarily eased the import process for several key commodities by allowing companies to purchase products from overseas without permits. The Agriculture Ministry sped up the issuance of import recommendations for over 460,000 tons of garlic.
"I want the Agriculture Ministry to have a deep sense of the crisis as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic," Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo said in the same online briefing. "We can only fight the coronavirus if food availability is certain."