Herman, Jakarta – State logistics agency Bulog considers buying rice from other countries because stock in its warehouses has dropped to just half of the government's targeted emergency rice reserve of 1.2 million tons.
Bulog currently has nearly 598,000 tons of rice while the government has tasked the agency to keep reserve at 1.2 million tons by the end of the year, Bulog President Director Budi Waseso said in a BTV talk show aired on Monday evening.
"As of today, we have continued to procure rice from our farmers. However, we need to take anticipatory measures when domestic supplies are inadequate and there is an option to import," Budi told BTV's Fristian Griec.
"It's about keeping our bellies full, the necessity that requires speed to overcome without any delay. We are racing against time because if other countries stop [selling rice] or there is no shipment, then we will be in big trouble."
During an inter-ministerial meeting around three weeks ago, Bulog was ordered to add supplies by half a million tons from domestic suppliers in collaboration with the Agriculture Ministry, otherwise Bulog's overall stocks will drop further to just around 400,000 tons by yearend.
But Budi said the Agriculture Ministry has not been able to meet the demand until now.
"I cannot just sit and wait for supplies from the Agriculture Ministry. My team has collected supplies during harvest times in many places but I believe they won't meet our target so we need to balance [with import]," he said.
Even with the import, there is no guarantee that Bulog will be able to reach the ideal emergency rice reserve because of the geopolitical situation that poses risk to global food security, he added.
"If the government requires us to get a supply of 500,000 tons, it doesn't necessarily mean that we will get that amount by import. I need to prioritize the productivity of our farmers. If they can keep up with our demand, import isn't necessary," Budi said.
Rice import is a sensitive issue that often puts the government under harsh criticism for its inability to secure food supplies in the rice-eating country.