The Indonesian government has decided to remove its 5 percent import tax on soybeans in response to a tempe and tofu sellers’ strike across a number of Indonesian cities to protest soaring soybean prices.
Coordinating minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa announced the decision on Wednesday after a meeting on the issue at his office in Jakarta. He said the tariff’s removal would be temporary, until soybean prices returned to normal.
“We hope with this temporary free import tax, sellers will immediately lower the prices and not take excessive profits,” Hatta said, as quoted by Indonesian news portal bisnis.com.
He added that the government would help local tempe and tofu producers to import soybeans on their own, in contrast to importing them through third parties, a factor contributing to the high prices.
The trade ministry, the Industry Ministry and the Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry will work together to assist local producers, Hatta said, adding that he had also asked the Industry Ministry to improve the production and distribution networks for soybeans nationwide.
Hatta said Indonesia consumed 2.2 million tonnes of soybeans per year, but the country was only able to produce 700,000 tonnes per year.
“We need at least 1 million tonnes of imported soybeans [per year],” the minister said.
Trade minister Gita Wirjawan said soaring soybean prices were attributable to adverse weather in Brazil and Argentina, which are among the world’s largest soybean producers.
Agriculture minister Suswono said it would be difficult for Indonesia to increase domestic soybean production, as the country only had 600,000 hectares of soybean farms in contrast to the 1.5 million hectares needed.