Riau wants to sell food to S’pore to make ends meet


Deputy governor wants to use trade to boost the province’s economy, saying that a poverty-stricken Riau is not good for Singapore or Malaysia.

RESOURCE-RICH but crisis-hit Riau wants to sell a range of food products to Singapore to help the Indonesian province tide over the economic downturn.

Riau deputy governor Rustam Abrus told The Straits Times yesterday that the province, which includes Sumatra and Batam and Bintan just south of Singapore, would benefit from cross-border trade with the Republic and Malaysia.

“The main aim is to overcome the problems caused by the economic crisis,” he said.

He noted that compared to the mainland parts of the province – which were relatively insulated from the economic downturn – the more than 3,000 islands which make up “offshore” Riau province were worse off. More than 90 per cent of its one million people were living below the poverty line.

“People in the islands are very poor and see Malaysia and Singapore as their markets to survive,” he said.

He said the islands of Rangsang, Kuala Kampar, Senayang, Karimun and Moro, in particular, could serve Singapore’s needs with foodstuffs, including coffee, pepper, coconut, durian, rambutan, sugar, fish and shrimp.

He could not provide an estimate of the volume of potential trade but indicated that each trawler could carry about US$1,500 (S$2,670) worth of goods per trip.

Mr Rustam said the central government in Jakarta agreed with local authorities last month that this was one way to alleviate poverty in the 225 villages on islands that are spread over more than 1,000 km of ocean.

Jakarta had already made informal representations to the Malaysian government, he said, adding that it would also be contacting Singapore soon to ask the Republic to allow Indonesians from Riau entry to the Pasir Panjang Terminal and Jurong Port.

Products could be shipped to their destinations by perahus or fishing trawlers three times a week at 24 different exit points along the Malacca Straits, he said.

The Indonesian military had agreed to monitor the movement of such ships and take action to prevent smuggling and illegal workers from entering the neighbouring countries, he added.

“We hope that Malaysia and Singapore will help us, because a poverty-stricken Riau is not good for either country so nearby,” he said.

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