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pakistan rice
Men plant in a field in Larkana, located in Pakistan's Sindh province, July 1, 2011. - Reuters file photo

JAKARTA: Indonesia is considering importing rice from India and Pakistan, as well as from traditional suppliers Thailand and Vietnam via government-to-government deals, Trade Minister Mari Pangestu said on Wednesday.

“We are exploring all possibilities. India is one of our source alternatives, and also Pakistan,” Pangestu told reporters.

Pangestu also said Indonesia would import rice to maintain state procurement agency Bulog's stockpile at 1.5 million to 2.0 million tonnes, but has yet to issue the permit.

“Yes, we have decided to import more rice this year, but we have not decided on the volume and the time of import because we are still calculating it,” she said.

“The important thing is we will import rice for sure to keep Bulog's stock at 1.5 million to 2.0 million tonnes,” said Pangestu, adding that the Indonesian government would prioritise government-to-government deals in importing rice.

India has agreed to allow one million tonnes of common rice exports and an unspecified amount of wheat, government sources said on Monday, as it weighs managing millions of tonnes of grains in stockpiles against fighting persistently high inflation.

“India's entry to the global market will offer additional rice supply, so we hope that prices will be more competitive,” said Pangestu, without giving further details.

Bulog's CEO told Reuters last week Indonesia may import rice from Vietnam or Thailand this year through a government agreement that allows purchases of up to two million tonnes of the staple grain from the countries.

The comments are the first indication by Indonesia that it could import significant volumes from August from the world's top two rice exporters, after bumper purchases in January surprised markets and boosted regional prices.

Indonesia mainly buys rice from Vietnam and Thailand.

The relaxation of a ban on Indian rice exports helped hold down Thai prices this week but they remained high compared to prices in Vietnam, which as a result may be able to export a record volume this year, traders said on Wednesday.