INDONESIAN MARKETS CALLED RIPE FOR AGGRESSIVE US FOOD EXPORTERS

INDONESIAN MARKETS CALLED RIPE FOR AGGRESSIVE US FOOD EXPORTERS

Indonesia would buy a lot of U.S. farm products if American exporters were aggressive there, but the market could be lost to other countries if they aren't, a trade expert said.

"Our competitors - the Australians, French, Canadians and several other countries in Asia - certainly have spotted the potential of the Indonesian market. And they are moving quickly to take advantage of it," said Michael Humphrey, the U.S. agricultural counselor in Indonesia."If U.S. exporters are not aggressive at this time, it will become exceedingly difficult later on to introduce our meat and poultry, our fruits and vegetables and our processed products after consumers have developed preferences for competitor products," he said in an interview in AgExporter magazine, put out by the Foreign Agricultural Service.

Mr. Humphrey said U.S. agricultural exports to Indonesia increased from almost $190 million in 1986 to approximately $350 million in 1992.

"We're seeing a surge in sales for everything from apples and fresh grapes, to frozen meat and poultry products, to snack foods, to dairy products (with significant growth in ice cream)," Mr. Humphrey said. "The country has pent-up demand, and U.S. exports are growing accordingly."

The major U.S. agricultural export was cotton, which stood at almost $206 million in 1992. The United States has about 47 percent of the Indonesian market for that product.

U.S. soybean exports have grown from $14 million in 1990 to a projected $75 million this year. While Indonesia produces some soybeans, it needs to import up to 600,000 tons a year, Mr. Humphrey said.

"The American Soybean Association has been active in Indonesia in food

nutrition, introducing tofu and other soybean foods," he said. "Most of the soybeans which are exported from the United States are actually used for food use rather than feed use."

In June, the government lifted its 35 percent surcharge on imports of soymeal, which should give enormous impetus to the development of Indonesia's livestock industries, Mr. Humphrey said.

U.S. Wheat Associates also has been successful in developing Indonesia's wheat food industry, with Indonesians eating more and more noodles, he said.

"Unfortunately, U.S. wheat export sales to this 2.6 million-ton market have been lost because of subsidized pricing by competitors," Mr. Humphrey added.

Thus far, U.S. wheat has not been designated eligible for subsidies under the Agriculture Department's Export Enhancement Program, he noted.

Mr. Humphrey said Indonesians like hot and spicy foods.

"Beyond that, if you want to learn about Indonesian preferences, just visit your local supermarket. Look at the packaging; note the wide array of products available. Consumers in Indonesia want the same thing," he said.