Riani Sanusi Putri, Jakarta – Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan said the government has decided to import 991,000 tons of white crystal sugar or consumption sugar. The decision was made after a closed meeting between relevant ministries and institutions.
"[In the] commodity balance, it has been decided that 991,000 tons of white crystal will go straight to consumers, 3.6 liters refined for industry, of which approximately 50 thousand tons in particular," the minister said in Bogor on Friday, December 23.
This year, the government issued an import permit for a volume of 500,000 tons. But Zulkifli said that only 300,000 tons have been actualized. The Trade Ministry had to give penalties to importers who have not sent the sugar for consumption to Indonesia.
In October, General Chairperson of the Indonesian People's Sugarcane Farmers Association (APTRI), Soemitro Samadikun, had questioned the government's urgency to import sugar for consumption. This is because the stock of sugar at the end of 2021 or early 2022 was 1.1 million tons.
Add that to the final 2021 stock, there will be a total sugar stock of 2.2 million tons. If added to the national production of 2.4 million tons, Soemitro said, the total sugar stock would be 4.6 million tons. With the annual sugar consumption averaging at 3 million tons, this means Indonesia still has a surplus of 1.6 million tons of sugar.
Trend ahead of elections?
The Director of the Center of Economics and Law Studies (Celios), Bhima Yudhistira, said that sugar is imported frequently even though domestic consumption is low or the processing industry is experiencing a slowdown. Bhima believes there is a trend or pattern that showed sugar imports often occurred ahead of elections. "This needs to be inquired," he said.
The next general election is in 2024.
Indonesia is one of the world's biggest sugar importers, even though the country's potential for sugarcane plantations as a raw material for sugar is quite large, Bhima said.
He said that there are people who enjoy the profits from sugar imports, they prefer the status quo so that Indonesia continues to depend on imports.
Bhima said that there was lobbying to make Indonesia a pro-food import country, one of them through the Job Creation Law, which relates to the import market due to the position of imports.
This condition also affects capital injections for sugar cane plantations and the sugar processing manufacturing industry. As a result, the domestic industry and plantations are under-developed. Bhima said that there needs to be changes in the system of sugar trade.