In Indonesia, the cost of a curry just got a lot pricier

JUNE 05, 2018 - 6:00 AM

[JAKARTA] COOKING up Indonesia's national dish is a lot more expensive these days.

A sharp rise in the cost of some of the key ingredients that make up a rendang curry - chili peppers, shallots and beef - is putting the popular dish out of reach for many Indonesians.

It's also driving up inflation in a country that's struggling to contain a currency rout and a surge in oil prices. The cost of chili - ubiquitous in Indonesian cooking and an essential ingredient in rendang - peaked at 41,350 rupiah (S$3.97) a kilogramme on May 18. That's up 24 per cent from a year earlier, according to data published on a Bank Indonesia price monitor.

While figures show consumer-price growth was fairly subdued at 3.2 per cent in May, food prices picked up considerably. They climbed 4.5 per cent from a year ago, following a 5.2 per cent gain in April - the fastest pace since December 2016.

Price pressures also coincided with the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in May, when Indonesians usually stock up on food for evening feasts.

"The driver of May inflation is volatile food and administered prices," said Josua Pardede, an economist at PT Bank Permata in Jakarta. He said the government has to do better at anticipating food price increases, particularly during the festive season.

"Volatile food inflation is growing faster than headline inflation, indicating that the supply of food commodities needs to be improved," Mr Pardede said.