JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Indonesia’s wheat imports are expected to decline in 2019-20 due to weaker demand as a result of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to an April 13 Global Agricultural Information Network report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA estimates that wheat imports will decrease to 10.8 million tonnes, down from the previous estimate of 11 million tonnes. The decline reflects  lower wheat flour for food consumption as result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A projected rebound in consumption in 2020-21 will lead to a modest increase in wheat imports to 10.95 million tonnes, the USDA said.

The report said that in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has infected nearly 2 million people worldwide while killing 121,000, the Indonesian government has implemented social distancing measures, which includes the closing of restaurants, food stalls and catering operations.

“Accordingly, wheat flour consumption has slowed,” the USDA said. “Running capacity of mills is estimated to decline to 60% to 70% from 80% in 2018-19. Due to the crisis, the industry is estimated to decline by approximately 5% in 2019-20.”

The USDA noted that in 2018-19, annual per capita wheat flour consumption reached an estimated 30 kilograms, an increase from 25 kilograms the previous year.

“A large urban population and growing middle class continue to diversify daily diets with more wheat flour-based foods such as breads, pizza and pasta,” the USDA said. “Nonetheless, the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting global and local economic slowdown is expected to reduce wheat consumption for food.”

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