In the past three months, some Indonesian tofu makers' businesses have been in dire straits due to the skyrocketing prices of soybeans.
by Dames Alexander Sinaga
JAKARTA, May 25 (Xinhua) -- For more than five years, Mad Soleh has been feeding his family from his own small-scale tofu production business in Rangkasbitung in Indonesia's Banten Province, yet in the past three months his business has been in dire straits due to the skyrocketing prices of soybeans.
Soybeans are the primary material for making tofu and tempeh, a traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans. The 35-year-old father of two children said that his daily income from the tofu production business has slumped drastically because of the increasing production cost.
During the past three months, he had to spend about 620,000 rupiahs (about 42 U.S. dollars) for a sack of 50 kilograms of soybeans. The price more than doubled compared to before, Soleh said.
"The situation is now very hard for my business to survive. I don't know how long this will go on," he told Xinhua.
Another local tofu producer, Dodi Sudrajat, is also facing the same situation as Soleh. The 55-year-old man reduced the tofu output. "The production cost is still high. But, hopefully by doing this (reducing the output), my business can manage to survive," he said.
In Banyumas, Central Java province, some small-scale tempeh producers in the district had to increase the price of tempeh. As a result, their daily turnovers fell.
In late February, tofu and tempeh producers in several Indonesian provinces halted their business for three days in protest against the soaring price of soybeans. Reports said soybean prices surged because the soybean production of South American countries dropped. Tofu and tempeh producers have asked the Indonesian government to immediately give them subsidies so that their production cost can return back to normal.
To manage the crisis, the government had begun to distribute soybean subsidies amounting to 850 billion rupiahs to tofu and tempeh producers across the archipelago starting from April.
The fund is to cover the gap in soybean prices between importers and local producers, Indonesia's state food procurement agency Bulog president director Budi Waseso said, adding that the subsidies would be distributed to regions gradually.
However, tofu producers like Soleh believed that the subsidies were only a temporary solution. Producers could still face soaring soybean prices in the future. The government, he said, must be firm and focus on self-sufficient in soybeans.