Indonesians urged to grow chillies to combat price rise

Chillies on sale in Jakarta, Indonesia
Image caption Some 100,000 households will be given free chilli seeds to enable them to grow their own plants

People in Indonesia have been urged to grow their own chillies, in an attempt to deal with a five-fold increase in prices over the last year.

President Susilo Yudhoyono Bambang said people should be "creative" in planting chillies - an essential ingredient in Indonesian cuisine.

Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said she already had 200 chilli plants growing at home.

The increase is due to pests and bad weather affecting growth and transport.

The trade minister told a briefing on Thursday that the agriculture ministry was educating farmers in how to take care of chilli plants, as well as "encouraging consumers to plant chilli in their own yards".

"I have 200 chilli plants in flowerpots," she said.

The price of chillies began to rise sharply late last year as the shortage became clear, with a kilo of some varieties now costing up to 100,000 rupiah (£7).

One street vendor in East Java said he had been forced to reduce the amount of chilli he added to his dishes.

"Sometimes we use red chilli, sometimes we don't because the price is too expensive, we can't afford it. So we use green chilli instead," he said.

"Chilli is too expensive now, red chilli is 80,000 rupiah per kilo, the most expensive one is Cayenne pepper, the small hot chilli. It costs 100,000 rupiah per kilo."

'Going all out'

Agriculture Minister Suswono said a national campaign would be launched to encourage home growing, with free seeds distributed to 100,000 households.

"The chilli is a plant that grows easily in the yard, but now, even in the villages, they want everything instantly, so they buy instead of growing it," the Jakarta Globe quoted him as saying.

Finance ministry officials told the newspaper they they were "going all out" to stabilise the market and improve the chilli-growing industries abilities to cope with bad weather.

But one official - Rusman Heriawan, head of a government statistics agency - said changing meals to use less spice was not an option.

"You can't eat without fresh ground chillies," he said. "We need to improve the supply."

The UN says global food prices rose by an average of more than 80% in the past 10 years, and hit a record high in December last year.

The rises have already led to violent protests and riots in some countries, and there are fears further increases could spread the unrest.

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