INDONESIA: corn imports would be halted this year

Poultry feed producers have objected to government plans to cease corn imports next year, saying they are concerned that domestic output may not cover their need for the commodity. “Corn imports cannot be stopped at all because we’re often running out of corn, mostly during the non-harvest season,” an executive of the Feed Producers Association, of GMPT, said.

About 50 percent of poultry feed consists of corn, making it the industry’s major raw material. Indonesia produces about eight million tons of poultry feed annually.

Based on government data, national output of dried corn kernels was estimated at 15.9 million tons for this year, while domestic demand was projected to be 13 million tons.

The feed industry requires four million tons a year. Outside of the harvest season, however, producers have been hampered by a lack of stock. Indonesia imported 414,000 tons of corn for poultry feed in 2007, down from imports of 1.6 million tons in 2006.

Thomas Effendy, vice president of
PT Charoen Pokphand Indonesia Tbk, said that good post-harvest management was needed before Indonesia could halt corn imports. He explained that corn had to be dried properly with machines after it was harvested, otherwise the quality of the stock would be poor. 

At present, most corn farmers dry their crops in the traditional way: by laying it out under the sun. “Good corn for feed contains 16 percent water at the most.
Sun-dried corn has a high water content and cannot be stored for long periods of time,” Effendy said.

During harvest time, farmers must sell all their corn because it will spoil, requiring feed producers to import the commodity during the rest of the year. Effendy said that if the government was planning to stop imports, it must provide corn dryer machines to farmers to allow them to preserve their crop for feed producers.

One GMPT member said producers would not mind paying higher taxes on corn imports if the commodity was readily available, adding that a tax rate of 10 percent to 20 percent would even be acceptable “as long as we can get it, otherwise production could stop and bring us losses.”

Regarding producers that may import corn next year, Sutarto Alimoeso, director general of food crops, said that the government planned to raise import taxes for the commodity higher than the current 5 percent, but he did not give an exact figure. “We are still calculating the tax increase,” he said.

The government said that corn imports would be halted this year because output was estimated to meet domestic demand. It forecast a dried corn output level of 18 million tons for 2009, up 13 percent from 2008.

INDONESIA should be free of bird flu by 2014 if it steps up efforts to eradicate the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, an official from the Ministry of Agriculture said lately. Tjeppy Soedjana, the ministry’s director general for animal husbandry, said that of the country’s 33 provinces, only Gorontalo and North Maluku were bird flu-free.

However, that number could increase dramatically with the implementation of the government’s program of intensifying efforts to reduce the poultry death rate, he said.

“If the program runs well nationally, Indonesia is expected to be free of bird flu in 2014,” Soedjana said, adding that West Kalimantan Province should be free of bird flu by April 2009. He said Central, East and South Kalimantan provinces should be
free of the H5N1 virus shortly afterward.

Data from the
Ministry of Agriculture indicates that the deadly virus spread to 294 districts in 31 provinces last year, causing 46,014 poultry deaths.

He said that the bird flu virus had spread further last year than during the previous three years, when it struck in 158 districts and municipalities in 25 provinces and resulted in 1.06 million poultry deaths.

To prevent the spread of the virus to other animals, the government plans to intensify its bird flu fighting efforts in a number of regions across the country over the next two years.

Tjeppy said that the government would also attempt to stamp out the
H5N1 bird flu virus in commercial poultry and poultry products. Other efforts to prevent the spread of the virus include mobilizing tracker and quick-response bird flu teams.

THE state visit by the President of Indonesia to Brazil, has paid enormous dividends to the
Brazilian beef industry.

President Yudhoyono and his Minister of Agriculture Anton Apriyantono, have agreed after two years of long and at times what appeared futile negotiations, a deal has been struck.

Beef exports are going to resume forthwith, and there is going to be a trade in crude palm oil from Indonesia to Brazil.

The deal is conditional in the initial stages, that beef comes from one state, it will also be beef from the farms that have been approved by the European Union. 

There has been an intense anti Brazilian campaign, lobbied by Australian beef exporters in Indonesia in recent months, however the decision cannot come from any higher than the President himself.

Minister Anton, denied the current rumors that Brazilian beef is unsafe and more expensive than Australian beef, saying "this is not the case and we are happy with the health measures currently in place in Brazil".

As reported before, Agriculture Minister said, "We will expand our sources of supply, which now can be from anywhere, but the most important thing is the meat be safe to consume and halal (fit according to Islamic law).
He said the additional supply of meat from Brazil would be realized immediately depending on how ready importers were to start importing. "We will first inform the importers about the regulation but preparations should continue," he said.

The minister said that besides increasing the supply, importing more meat would also allow for classification of meat into different grades and price categories. "At present, all types of meat are priced the same while they are actually classifiable into better cuts for middle-income consumers, for example, and regular for general consumers," he said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said the government would cut the price of meat following the drop in the global price of fuel oil.
DUCKS carrying the H5N1 virus are infecting chickens and humans with their waste in Tangerang, Banten Province, researchers told Ministry of Health officials at a press conference recently.

A survey of more than 7,000 households in the area indicated ducks, traditional markets and the movement of poultry are the most significant factors in the transmission of bird flu there.

Sudomo, the head of the survey team for the pilot study on avian influenza, said the group’s research covered 18 villages, including six with confirmed bird flu cases in poultry, six with confirmed human cases and six other villages where the virus had not been detected. Sudomo said traditional markets with poor sanitation standards were at risk for spreading the virus. 

“In traditional markets, areas where poultry and vegetables are sold must be separated to make it easier for authorities to move in quickly if a bird flu case is detected,” he said. He said some traditional markets in Aceh Province have already implemented similar measures. 

Sudomo also said that poultry traders in the study area used various routes to transport poultry to markets, which increases the potential for people in those areas to be exposed to the virus. 

Tangerang was chosen as the site for the pilot project because the rate of bird flu in that area was relatively high. According to data from animal husbandry officials in Banten, there were 518 cases of bird flu there from August 2006 to May 2008, 98 of them in Tangerang district. The disease has also killed 25 people in the province, 24 in Tangerang.

The survey was sponsored by health officials from Indonesia, Singapore and the United States. Project leader Gindo Simanjuntak said about 6,000 markets in Banten would be upgraded, and local officials would begin separating poultry from vegetables in four markets as a result of the study.

GOVERNMENT will allocate Rp 109 billion ($10 million) from the 2009 national budget as part of a pilot program to buy up crops at harvest time and build barns so that farming communities can store the food they grow, Achmad Suryana, the head of the Ministry of Agriculture’s food security agency, said.

“The money is aimed at providing villages with food reserves. It can be used to build barns, not only for rice but also for corn, sago and other staple foodstuffs, depending on the area,” Suryana said. The maintaining of food stocks is also expected to help stabilize food prices in rural areas.

Suryana said that the pilot program would be implemented in 15 districts in 10 provinces, although the districts had yet to be selected. The money would be allocated based on each area’s needs.

Currently, many farmers in Indonesia, particularly in Java, do not have access to barns where they can store their crops. After harvesting, farmers sell their entire production, flooding the market and causing food prices to drop. Malnutrition can be a problem in farming communities outside of harvest time.

Suryana said that he hoped the pilot program would produce a “cultural change” among farmers by allowing them to save for times of scarcity. Winarno Tohir, the chairman of the KTNA farmers’ union, welcomed the program.

The barns, Winarno said, would help farmers secure better prices for their crops and help communities become self-sufficient in food.

VICE President Jusuf Kalla has urged researchers to further intensify food crop development, particularly in rice and corn, to help boost national food production and maintain the country’s food self-reliance that was achieved last year.

Kalla was speaking during the inauguration of a training program on improving agricultural output for district heads, district military commanders and village-level guidance military officers across South Sulawesi, at the Cereal Crops Research Center in Maros regency.

The training program is aimed at assisting farmers in the province enhance agricultural production, particularly to meet the rice and corn surplus targets of 2 million tons and 1.5 million tons, respectively, this year. Prime variety crops, Kalla said, could only be achieved with continuous research and development into the latest agricultural techniques. “Research can only be developed by sound knowledge,” he added. Advanced research, he went on, was necessary because dwindling farmland in Indonesia meant extending existing farms was an unlikely option for boosting production.

“Our croplands are increasingly limited. Extending them would mean further deforestation. Besides, it is costly to open up new farmland. So our only choice is agricultural intensification to increase food production. We also need superior variety seedlings, good irrigation systems and adequate fertilizer,” Kalla said.

He admitted the government had neglected to restore irrigation systems over the past 10 years, but said it would now focus on the issue, including building new channels in 2009 so rain-dependent rice paddies could be irrigated, and to capitalize on the biannual sowing system.

The Vice President also said Indonesia had achieved food self-sufficiency, especially in rice, thanks to hard work from farmers, researchers and field officers. “We were able to achieve self-sufficiency in rice in 1982, and achieved it again in 2008. We must be grateful to the farmers, researchers and agricultural guidance officers who worked hard to enhance our agricultural production,” he said.

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