February 13, 2015 / 5:53 AM / 5 years ago

Indonesia's 2015 soybean imports seen flat on govt output drive

JAKARTA, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Soybean shipments into Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest importer, are forecast to stay unchanged this year, an industry official said, following a government push to boost domestic output.

Indonesia is expected to import about 2 million tonnes in 2015, Ali Basry, director of the Indonesian representative office of the American Soybean Association, told Reuters.

Indonesia’s new president Joko Widodo has mirrored his predecessor by setting hugely ambitious food self-sufficiency goals for his first term, including a three-year target for rice, corn and soybeans.

“Usually the first year it will happen,” said Basry on the impact of the new food policies, adding that a 2019 government target of 2.6 million tonnes would be extremely difficult to achieve.

In the past, efforts to improve domestic output of foods have been hampered by a lack of coordination by government ministries, red tape, land issues and scandals over import quotas.

Indonesia’s agriculture ministry has forecast domestic soybean production at 1.27 million tonnes this year, up from 920,000 tonnes in 2014.

Industry estimates often differ greatly from government forecasts. Basry sees domestic soybean production at 600,000-700,000 tonnes this year, from 500,000 tonnes in 2014.

Ample global supplies have cut Chicago soybean futures by about 13 percent over the past year, and Basry said low prices are unlikely to encourage Indonesian farmers to grow more soybeans.

Soybeans are mainly used by makers of soybean-based staple foods tofu and tempe in Indonesia, with imports usually accounting for around 70 percent of the country’s annual needs. Most shipments come from suppliers in the United States or South American countries depending on price.

Major soybean importers in Indonesia include Sungai Budi Group, Cargill Inc and FKS Multi Agro Tbk. (Reporting by Michael Taylor; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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