Jakarta – Indonesia recorded a large increase in rice imports in the first eight months this year compared to the same period last year, the statistics agency said Friday, as Southeast Asia's biggest economy seeks to boost stocks of its staple commodity.
Global rice prices rose to a 15-year high last week after top producer India's decision in July to ban exports of non-basmati rice, citing several factors including soaring domestic prices and "extreme climatic conditions".
Indonesia imported 1.59 million tons of rice from January to August this year, Statistics Indonesia head Amalia Adininggar Widyasanti said, while more than 429,000 tons of rice were imported for the whole of 2022.
"Rice imports from January and August 2023 experienced quite a high increase compared to the same period last year," Widyasanti told reporters, without disclosing the import figure for the same period last year.
Most rice imports came from Southeast Asian neighbors, with Thailand sending 802,000 tons and Vietnam exporting 674,000 tons of the commodity over the period.
The government had set an import quota of 2.3 million tons of rice this year to maintain price stability because of expected disruption to rice production caused by the El Nino weather pattern.
But the rice imports were complicated by import restriction measures taken by other countries including India, President Joko Widodo said on Friday.
"We want to strengthen our strategic reserve of rice, but even importing it is difficult, unlike in the past," he said in a speech.
On Thursday, Widodo ordered state-owned logistics company Bulog to release its reserve stocks to the market in order to bring down rice prices.
The nationwide rice price averaged Rp14,490 ($0.94) as of Friday, an increase of around 16 percent compared to the same period last year, according to data from the National Food Agency.