Indonesia sees rice crop up, seeks Gulf farm investment

Reuters | 12 June 2010

Indonesia's Minister of Agriculture Suswono

JEDDAH, June 12 - Indonesia expects a 6 percent rise in its milled rice harvest this year, leading to a 2 million tonnes surplus, and aims to attract Gulf Arab investors to develop "sleeping land", Agriculture Minister Suswono said.

"Growth is 6 percent from last year's figure and over the next five years we would like to see a growth of 3.2 percent," he said on Saturday, during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

Indonesia is expected to produce 37 million tonnes of milled rice this year, which exceeds 35 million tonnes required to satisfy domestic demand, he told reporters in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.

Suswono was speaking through an official translator.

The agriculture minister met businessmen from the Gulf Arab country and discussed agricultural business opportunities in Indonesia.

He is scheduled to meet the Saudi agricultural minister in the kingdom's capital city of Riyadh on Sunday.

Indonesia has over 7.7 million hectares of unused land that is in need of development, Suswono said.

"There is still... untapped potential for agribusiness investment in Indonesia, particularly in the field of food crops, industrial processing as well as horticulture and land stock industry," he said.

Gulf countries, who mainly rely on food imports, have been investing in farmland overseas to secure their food supply, but difficulty in regulations has led to delays in tapping Indonesian farming opportunities.

Last year, Saudi Arabia's Bin Laden Group stalled plans for a $4.3 billion project to develop 2 million hectares of land in Indonesia. Suswono said the project has not materialised yet.

The minister said there were no Gulf Arab firms operating in the Southeast Asian country, but hoped to attract investors during his visit.

"We still have some difficulties internally in arranging land for large-scale farming, which are requested by foreign investors. This is due to environmental reasons to protect our rainforests," the minister said, adding that the government has since issued regulations for investment in large farming.
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