Irony of Distributing Rice Cookers Amid Soaring Rice Prices

Government’s Rice Cooker Giveaway

The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) has issued Ministerial Regulation No. 11 of 2023 regarding the Provision of Electric Cooking Appliances (Rice Cookers) for Households.  The goal of this program is to ensure affordable, reliable, and sustainable access to clean energy.  However, amid these noble objectives, the policy of giving away free rice cookers has become an irony. This program was conceived at a time when rice prices have been squeezing the pockets of the public.

Rice Prices Soar, Fueling Inflation Concerns in September 2023

For instance, IR I rice prices (IR 64) in the market touched Rp13,702 per kilogram (kg), IR II rice (IR 64) was at Rp13,018 per kg, IR III rice (IR 64) was at Rp12,525 per kg. Meanwhile, IR 42 rice/pearl rice reached Rp14,208 per kg, IR 42/pearl rice at Rp14,853 per kg, and premium setra I rice at Rp14,135 per kg.

Referring to the latest data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) in September 2023, the average price of rice has seen changes across the board. In detail, last month, the consumer-level rice price was Rp13,799, and the wholesale level was Rp13,037. Meanwhile, the average price of premium quality rice at mills recorded at Rp12,900 per kg, marking a 9.75 percent increase from the previous month.

Similarly, the average price of medium-quality rice at mills was Rp12,685 per kg, reflecting a 10.55 percent increase, and the average price of rice outside quality mills was Rp11,746 per kg, rising by 11.59 percent.

Rice has also recently been a major contributor to inflation. For example, in September 2023, the BPS data showed that monthly rice inflation reached the highest point since February 2018, and annual rice inflation hit its peak since 2014.

Rice inflation in September 2023 reached 5.61 percent on a monthly basis (mtm) with a contribution of 0.18 percent to inflation. Meanwhile, on an annual basis (yoy), rice inflation was 18.44 percent and contributed 0.55 percent to inflation.

Criticism of Rice Cookers Aid

Kurniasih Mufidayati, Chairwoman of the PKS Central Board for Women and Family Resilience (BPKK), also criticized the provision of free rice cookers at a time when rice prices are soaring. For Kurniasih, what the people need now is affordable and accessible food prices, not assistance in the form of large-budget cooking appliances.

The procurement of electric cooking appliances is known to cost Rp340 billion for 500,000 potential beneficiaries. According to Kurniasih, the public would better served with subsidized assistance for basic food prices to meet their daily needs.

She believes that this policy is paradoxical, especially since one minister previously urged the public to switch from consuming rice to consuming tubers due to the soaring rice prices. Yet, another ministry is now providing significant assistance in the form of rice cookers.