Less than a week since the start of Ramadhan, the government’s challenges are mounting, with the prices of staple food commodities showing no sign of descending from their current vertiginous levels.
In Jakarta, the prices of commodities such as shallots and beef remain far in excess of market value.
At Kramat Jati central market, East Jakarta, Rp 44,000 (US$3.3) will buy only 1 kg of shallots, almost twice the government’s suggested price of Rp 25,000 per kg.
“The government said it wanted to stabilize food prices, but it’s already the fourth day of Ramadhan and nothing has changed,” sighed vendor Nur Ilhami.
Nur said the price of shallots had been unusual since months ago, when it rose to between Rp 28,000 and Rp 30,000 per kg.
Last week, the government announced measures to stabilize the prices of foodstuffs by importing and providing incentives for farmers. It is set to import 27,400 tons of beef, 381,000 tons of sugar and 2,500 tons of shallots to meet local demand. It is also looking to stabilize the rice price, which usually fluctuates during Ramadhan and the subsequent Idul Fitri holiday, the biggest festivities in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.
The measures, however, have so far been to no avail.
Initially aiming to lower beef prices to Rp 80,000 per kg, Trade Minister Thomas Lembong witnessed in person at East Jakarta’s Rawamangun market that the commodity was being sold for between Rp 120,000 and Rp 130,000 per kg.
“I acknowledge the government’s lack of preparation regarding beef stocks. The supply chain remains inefficient,” Thomas said during a visit to the market on Friday morning.
Cutting the convoluted distribution system and supply chain, Thomas explained, is a prerequisite to lowering beef prices.
Kramat Jati vendor Wahyuni, who is also head of the market’s vendor association, explained that the distribution process from farmers to consumers involved four parties.
“It begins with farmers, then collectors, then vendors at wholesale markets and finally small-scale vendors,” Wahyuni explained.
She urged the authorities to monitor collectors and wholesale markets, which are able to control supply.
After visit to the market, Thomas attended a closed-door meeting with a number of Cabinet ministers to evaluate efforts to curb rising prices.
During the meeting, the Trade Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry, the Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry and the Industry Ministry agreed to establish a joint team to monitor and stabilize food prices.
Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman said the team would continue to work beyond Idul Fitri, which falls on July 6, to ensure an “efficient and effective” supply chain from farmers to consumers.
The government will also directly cooperate with farmers, businesses and market vendors, as well as monitoring distribution activities to prevent foul play at any level of the supply chain.
Amran explained that the team would work on both short-term and long-term solutions, but did not provide any details.
Previously, the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) alleged foul play among distributors, accusing them of selling commodities at a much higher cost than that charged by farmers.
“This needs time to achieve; it is not a one-day job,” Amran told reporters after Friday’s meeting, which took place at his office in South Jakarta.
Thomas, meanwhile, acknowledged the government had difficulties in maintaining stable prices as a result of a lack of cooperation among ministries.
The team, he said, aims to solve problems at every link of the supply chain. “This is a collective challenge for us. [The ministries] cannot blame one another or be defensive.” (adt)
Source: TheJakartaPost.com | 11 June 2016 | Dewanti A. Wardhani