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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        7 January 2011

High chili prices prompt backyard gardens

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Facing a global spike in food prices and public protests over the skyrocketing cost of chilies, the government on Thursday vowed to stabilize the market but said consumers must also do their part to tackle inflation, including planting peppers in their yards.

"We're going all out to maintain price stability for food because prices continue to rise, with extreme weather the main cause," Hatta Rajasa, coordinating minister for economy, said at the Finance Ministry on Thursday.

"We are finalizing two regulations that we hope can strengthen our capacity to deal with extreme weather. They will be finished by the end of this month."

Harvests last year were damaged by the La Nina weather phenomenon, which caused heavy downpours throughout the dry season, reducing supplies and contributing to higher prices.

As a short-term solution to the scalding pepper prices, Agriculture Minister Suswono said he was preparing a national campaign to encourage people to plant chilies. He said free seeds would be distributed to 100,000 households, starting in Lampung, Banten and possibly Jakarta.

"The chili is a plant that grows easily in the yard," said Suswono, who also addressed journalists assembled at the Finance Ministry. "But now, even in the villages, they want everything instantly, so they buy instead of growing it."

Chili prices have surged fivefold in Indonesia over the past year to around Rp 100,000 ($11) a kilogram, making it more expensive than beef and hurting households in a nation famed for its spicy cuisine.

Suswono said chili production had fallen 30 percent after unseasonable rains caused harvests to fail, although he was hoping for a better crop in January to help bring down prices.

The government is also importing rice to ensure supply. About 1.3 million metric tons would be shipped in from Thailand and Vietnam ahead of February's harvest, Suswono said.

He said the foreign rice was necessary because the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) had only collected 1.9 million tons of rice from farmers last year, well short of its 3.2 million ton target.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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