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Indonesia’s free school lunch and milk policy a ‘significant’ opportunity for Australian farmers

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Australia’s dairy industry is licking its lips at the prospect of increased demand from Indonesia.

One of the key policies for Indonesia’s president-elect, Prabowo Subianto, is to provide free lunches and milk to Indonesian school students.

The program is set to begin next year at an estimated initial cost of over $11 billion (120 trillion rupiah).

Dairy Australia’s Charlie McElhone was in Jakarta this week and said the school lunch proposal would see milk required for 83 million school children.

“These are huge numbers and a huge task in front of the Indonesians and there was a strong interest [this week] in how Australia and Indonesia can work together to service that need,” he said.

“We’re still gathering more information as to what this will all look like … and whether the demand will be for milk powders or UHT milk, but the opportunity is really significant.”

He said Indonesia was already Australia’s third-largest export market for dairy, worth about $130 million a year.

Mr McElhone said the per capita consumption of dairy in Indonesia was about 15 litres per year, compared to Australia which is over 300 litres per year.

Opportunities for various industries

Meat and Livestock Australia’s general manager for international markets, Andrew Cox, was also in Jakarta this week with the Australian Food and Wine Collaboration Group.

He says Indonesia is buying more boxed beef from Australia and is our nation’s number one customer for beef offal.

“It’s a great market for some of the products that perhaps aren’t in high demand in Australia such as [beef] lungs, tongue and hearts,” he said.

“Every time I’m in Indonesia I always try some delicious snacks made from these products.”

Mr Cox said Mr Subianto’s school lunch program was a major talking point and could open opportunities for a number of commodities.

“There’s an air of excitement around this particular policy, especially from the dairy industry,” he said.

“But there’s also food opportunities, such as beef which is at the heart of their culture and cuisine.

“Australia is a great supplier of quality produce and there’s some good opportunities with the new Indonesian president’s interest in health nutrition for Indonesian school children.”

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Speaking to Bloomberg at the 2024 Qatar Economic Forum this month, Mr Subianto said his core focus stepping into the role of president would be food security.

“We are determined to bring down poverty in a massive campaign; I’m determined to get rid of hunger amongst our people, especially the young,” he said.

“In my heart I cannot accept that in this day and age, [in] Indonesia — the fourth-largest population in the world — many of my people are still living a very, very difficult life and I believe with my leadership I can contribute a lot to bettering the life of my people.”

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