Indonesia import Washington apples

Indonesia’s thriving fresh produce import business is facing some headaches as 2012 gets under way with the government’s announcement of new restrictions on trade.

The Agriculture Ministry has published three new regulations to tighten horticultural imports, focusing on stricter screening in terms of food safety and quarantine issues.

While compliance with these standards is unlikely to cause too many problems for most supplying countries, importers have expressed greater concern about the government’s move to reduce the number of entry points for imported fruit and vegetables from eight ports to four.

Under the new rules, which are due to take effect on 20 March, Indonesian’s main seaport of Jakarta will no longer be allowed to discharge fresh fruit and vegetable imports. The only approved entry points will be the Port of Surbaya, the Port of Medan, the Port of Makasar and Jakarta International Airport.

The omission of Jakarta seaport comes as a blow to the trade, since the Indonesian capital and its environs represent the main consumer market in the country for imported fruit and vegetables.

Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta has the largest and best facilities among all seaports in Indonesia for handling fresh fruit and vegetables and moving them to smaller ports, according to key industry sources.

If direct shipments to Jakarta are prohibited, the fresh produce imports will have to be sent to Surabaya port, importers noted, which is some 1,000km by road from Jakarta City and will result in significant delays and diversion costs.

The first of the three new ministerial regulations will focus on tightening up food safety supervision. Agriculture Minister Suswono told Indonesia Finance Today that the government will be monitoring an extra 100 fresh plant foods as well as screening for additional kinds of “pollutants”, including “chemical pollutants, heavy metals, aflatoxin and salmonella”.

The second ministerial regulation governs technical requirements and quarantine measures for fruit and vegetable imports, and the third focuses on quarantine measures for the import of live plant products in the form of fresh tuber layered vegetables.

The Indonesian government has made no secret of its plans to restrict fresh fruit and vegetable imports over the past year and to protect domestic producers who struggle to supply local market needs or compete in export markets.

Indonesia’s total fresh fruit imports reached 626,963 tonnes in 2010, whereas fresh fruit exports only amounted to 13,480 tonnes, according to the country’s Bureau of Statistics.