* Stock-build could mean no Indonesia rice imports in 2013
* Indonesia import doubts come as Thailand selling down
* Indonesia unmilled rice output forecast flat to 5 pct
By Yayat Supriatna
JAKARTA, July 25 Indonesia's state food
procurement body Bulog has built up rice stocks of nearly three
million tonnes, the CEO said on Thursday, reducing the
likelihood that Southeast Asia's largest economy will import the
staple grain this year.
The large stocks and possible lack of Indonesian imports
will not be welcome news in Thailand, where the government is
targeting to sell up to 1.5 million tonnes of rice each month
for the rest of the year. Thailand needs to cut losses from a
price-support scheme and free up storage for a coming harvest.
Earlier this month, Bulog, which usually maintains rice
stocks at between 1.5 million to 2 million tonnes by buying from
domestic and regional suppliers, said it could import up to
600,000 tonnes of rice this year. But it also said it was hoping
to not have to import rice in 2013.
"Our current rice stock at Bulog warehouses is 2.82 million
tonnes," Bulog CEO Sutarto Alimoeso told reporters.
It isn't clear if Indonesia will need rice imports this year
as it depended on domestic output, he said, adding that if
production rises by 5 percent as it did in the previous year,
then there would be no need to ship in extra supplies.
Indonesia's statistics bureau has forecast that unmilled
rice production will be little changed at 69.27 million tonnes,
while the agriculture ministry sees output rising 5 percent to
72.1 million tonnes.
Indonesia imported 1.38 million tonnes of rice last year,
and usually buys from Vietnam, India and Thailand.
Earlier this year, an agriculture ministry official urged
Bulog to scrap rice imports this year, as the annual surplus
will likely jump 22 percent to 8.3 million tonnes.
Thailand has built rice inventories of up to 18 million
tonnes due to an intervention programme in which it pays above
market prices to farmers. The programme was first introduced as
a political scheme during an election in 2011.
Thailand is now stepping up efforts to sell rice from its
stockpiles in order to get fresh funds for the costly support
scheme and to make way for grain from coming crops.
Indonesia was self-sufficient in rice in the early 1980s,
but output gradually declined as farmland was used for housing
for a booming population. The agriculture ministry has drafted a
2013-2015 regulation to stop agricultural land, mainly aimed at
rice paddies, being converted to industrial or housing use.
Bulog, which can also import beef, corn, sugar and soybeans,
is tasked with keeping food affordable by buying and selling
staples locally at set rates.
Bulog also runs a rice-for-the-poor scheme.
(Writing by Michael Taylor; Editing by Tom Hogue)