September 20, 2011


Indonesia to become top SE Asian corn importer in 2011


Ending Malaysia's 15-year run, Indonesia will now become SE Asia's top corn importer in 2011, the US Grains Council said Monday (Sep 19).


Adel Yusupov, Southeast Asia regional director at the council said that SE Asia's largest economy expects to import 3.2 million tonnes of corn against last year's 1.6 million tonnes.


"They had pretty bad weather this year, they had a lot of wet conditions," Yusupov said of Indonesia. "Poultry is the demand growth driver here. Consumption is picking up.


He added that Malaysia for the past years, is a stable importer of corn at 2.6 or 2.7 million tonnes but Indonesia will become the biggest one this year.


Yusupov's estimate is higher than the Indonesian Feed Mill Association (GPMT), which adjusted its imports forecast last week, from more than three million tonnes to 2.5 million tonnes in 2011.


A number of corn-producing areas in the world's most populous Muslim nation have suffered from failed harvests because of bad weather.


At the same time, Indonesia, which has some 240 million people, is expected to post economic growth of about 6.6 % this year, boosted by domestic consumption and mineral exports.


More affluent Indonesians are turning away from rice, once the staple diet, towards more bread and meat-based foods, including fast foods.


"This year I've heard as high as four million tonnes corn imports by a trading company. I think it will be around 3.2 million," said Yusupov.


Indonesians consume about 430,000 tonnes of beef annually. Figures for poultry consumption were not immediately available.


USDA statistics show that for the year ending September 2011, Indonesia imported 2.5 million tonnes of corn, making it the 11th biggest importer in the world.


Last month, Indonesia's finance ministry said it saw corn production at 24 million tonnes next year, a rise of almost 40 % against the earlier 2011 estimate of 17.39 million tonnes from the statistics bureau. Many industry players say this number is hugely ambitious.


Yusupov sees Indonesian corn production at 6- 6.5 million tonnes this year, versus 6.7 million tonnes in 2010.


He said chicken was increasingly supplanting the traditional soy product tempeh in Indonesian diets.


"Younger Indonesians ... when you give them chicken and tempeh, they'll go for chicken," said Kuala Lumpur-based Yusupov, speaking on the sidelines of the SE Asia US Agricultural Co-operators Conference.


"In the villages they eat it and in the cities a lot of lower income levels live on it, but emerging middle classes (means) less tempeh and more chicken coming in."

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