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Traditional foods have export potential

The government expects to export some US$6 billion in food and beverages this year, pharmacy an increase of about 6 percent from 2010’s figure.

To increase the value, the government will focus on promoting traditional culinary specialties because they combine the possibilities of obtaining more revenue and creating both jobs and a sense of national identity, a top trade official says.

Deputy Trade Minister Bayu Krisnamurthi said Sunday that exposing traditional foods to foreign markets would result in thousands of Indonesians being employed within export-oriented traditional culinary industries.

“At the same time, we have a very large captive market, following the success of a growing number of Indonesian restaurants abroad, as well as supermarkets selling Indonesian spices,” he told The Jakarta Post via text message.

Bayu said currently, traditional culinary exports were minimal, especially in comparison to other Asian countries, whose culinary diversity was not as varied as Indonesia’s, such as Japan, Thailand and South Korea, to name a few.

He added that it would be possible to start exporting by displaying traditional cuisine during bilateral and multilateral occasions abroad.

“We have collaborated with the Foreign Ministry as well as several of Indonesia’s embassies abroad,” he said.

The Foreign Ministry’s director general for American and European affairs, Retno L.P. Marsudi, said a focus group discussion was held two weeks ago in Jakarta to find ways to promote traditional foods abroad.

A string of local, well-known chefs, restaurateurs and representatives from trade, industry and tourism and the creative industries attended the discussion.

“Our culinary promotion is not yet well developed. Therefore, we gathered here [in Jakarta] and talked,” Retno said over the phone.

She said that early next year, participants would gather again and draw up a road map with traditional culinary strategies. Among them are food choices, promotion methods and taste standardization.

She said Thai dish tom yam gung had a similar taste across the globe because the Thai government had been involved in standardizing its taste, adding the government would standardize the taste of local foods, such as sate ayam and rendang.

A week ago, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said food would be added to the creative sector, bringing the total number of sub-sectors to 15.

“We chose food because it is closely related to tourism,” she said.

The creative economy contributed 9.25 percent of a total Rp 131.3 trillion (US$14.4 billion) of exports in 2010.

Meanwhile, the amount of imported food and beverages from Malaysia has continued to increase during recent months, inundating the local market, which is already overwhelmed with imported products.

The Indonesian Food and Beverage Association revealed that imports of Malaysian food and beverages accounted for US$48.8 million in the first eight months of this year.

“They made up 24.7 percent of Indonesia’s total food and beverage imports up until October, increasing from 18.5 percent by April,” the association’s secretary-general, Franky Sibarani, said in a written statement.

The association also revealed that imported food from ASEAN countries reached $96.5 million in the same period. (fem/rcf)

Source : http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/11/28/traditional-foods-have-export-potential.html

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