Saudis get a taste of traditional Indonesian medicine

Saudis get a taste of traditional Indonesian medicine
(Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 20 August 2020

Saudis get a taste of traditional Indonesian medicine

Saudis get a taste of traditional Indonesian medicine
  • First export of jamu worth $100,000 adds spice to Kingdom’s herbal market

JAKARTA: Indonesia is looking to make inroads into Saudi Arabia’s herbal drug market following its first export of jamu, a traditional medicine, to the Kingdom last week, officials told Arab News.

Sido Muncul, a publicly listed herbal producer, shipped a container of jamu — a slow-brewed herbal tonic containing turmeric and other herbs — to the Kingdom on Aug. 10.

The shipment is worth nearly $100,000, company CEO Irwan Hidayat told Arab News.

Jamu is the go-to drink for Indonesians, who value it for its medicinal properties.

Hidayat said that the company has previously shipped Tolak Angin — an over-the-counter tonic comprising ginger, clove, fennel fruit, mint and honey — to Indonesian stores in the Kingdom.

“But this shipment marked our first official export as our product has been approved by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and the product labeling is written in Arabic. It will be distributed by our local importer partner and sold by major retailers,” he said.

The term “tolak angin” means repelling the wind and is the antonym of masuk angin or catching a cold. Masuk angin is used by Indonesians to describe how they feel when suffering from the flu.

Hidayat said Sido Muncul is looking to secure a distribution license for a more significant market share in the Kingdom.

“We are planning to submit more of our products for registration to the Saudi FDA. It would be good for us if we can get the SFDA’s license for distribution as it will increase our chances of securing the local consumers’ trust,” he said.

While the main consumer target will be Indonesians living in the Kingdom, Tolak Angin is already a favorite among Saudis, according to its distributor.

Kasan Muhri, trade ministry director-general for national export development, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia is a “captive market” for Indonesian jamu products given the potential number of Indonesians living in the country and visiting for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage.

Indonesia has the world’s largest annual Hajj quota, with 221,000 pilgrims with nearly 1 million Indonesians visiting the Kingdom every year to perform Umrah.

“We also aim for Filipinos and other Southeast Asians, who have similar consumer behavior to Indonesians and are no strangers to herbal medicine,” Muhri said.

Sido Muncul’s first export of jamu is based on a trade deal forged with Mizanain Marketing and Trading, a Saudi Arabian distributor, during the 2019 Trade Expo Indonesia held outside Jakarta in October last year.

Muhri said the ministry is optimistic the exports will spur Indonesia’s biopharmaceutical and food sectors’ efforts to penetrate the global market, despite restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

According to Muhri, this is also a notable move for Indonesia’s trade to Saudi Arabia since the biopharmaceutical and food and beverage sectors are exempted from the Kingdom’s recent tariff increase on 500 varities of products.

Data from Statistics Indonesia showed that exports of biopharmaceutical products increased to $4.2 million or 32.8 percent year-on-year in the first half of this year — a favorable outcome despite the decline in purchasing power globally.


Indian protests growing as ‘anti-farm’ peace offer nixed

Updated 03 December 2020

Indian protests growing as ‘anti-farm’ peace offer nixed

Indian protests growing as ‘anti-farm’ peace offer nixed
  • New laws ‘could leave farmers landless, at mercy of corporate players’

NEW DELHI: Farmers’ protests across the Indian capital New Delhi have gained momentum as several new groups joined from various parts of the country on Wednesday.

Protesters repeated their demands for the government to scrap new agricultural laws which they say could destroy their livelihoods by opening up the sector to private players.

However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government argues that the laws passed in September would allow farmers to be self-sufficient by setting their prices and selling produce directly to private firms, such as supermarket chains.

Farmers are not buying that and say that the new laws would instead pave the way for the government to stop buying the crops at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the “mercy of private buyers” fixing prices.

Bhanu Pratar Singh, president of the Indian Farmers’ Association, said: “Our basic demand is that the government gives us in writing that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) that the government gives to farm produce should be codified in law in the farm laws.”

Protests escalated last week when tens of thousands of farmers marched to New Delhi, with a majority saying that the new laws would also allow traders to stockpile grains, which they fear will lead to rising prices and more profit for traders amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The demonstrations led to clashes with police, who used tear gas, water cannons and batons against protesters.

Farmers sell their products at wholesale markets owned by the government, which also sets the MSP for grains.

All of that could change with the entry of new market players in the agricultural sector, where individual market prices could supersede the MSP, Jagjit Singh Dalewal of the Indian Farmers’ Union, a joint forum for 30 farm unions, told Arab News.

“It will leave us at the mercy of the big business houses. We don’t want that uncertainty,” he said.

“The traditional market system and the MSP have sustained farmers in Punjab and Haryana for a long time. They assured us a guaranteed price which is higher than the market. The new farm laws deprive us of that,” Dalewal added.

On Tuesday, talks between officials and the farmers’ union failed after the latter rejected an offer to establish a committee on the issue.

A joint statement released by farmers’ groups said that they found the offer “an attempt to buy time without addressing the real issue.”

The next round of talks is expected to begin on Thursday.

“Most of the farmers in India have small landholding, and they cannot compete with the big corporate houses,” Sunil Pradhan, a farmer based in Greater Noida, a suburban city of Delhi, told Arab News.

“A farmer having less than two hectares of land cannot have bargaining power with the corporate groups. He will succumb to pressure and become a pawn in the hands of the big players. Such farmers need government protection,” he added.

The government says that the new laws are not “anti-farmer.”

“The new agricultural law implemented by the government is not anti-farmer at all,” Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankara Prasad said on Wednesday.

“Under this bill, the safety net of the MSP will remain and will also add new options that the farmers have. Farmers will be able to enter into direct agreements for sale of food grains with production companies,” he tweeted on Wednesday.

Economists have questioned the claims, drawing attention to the “genuine” concerns of farmers.

“Many small farmers are worried that the free market in the agriculture sector will dispossess many small farmers of their lands, which will become corporatized, and they will become landless,” New Delhi-based Prof. Arun Kumar of Jawaharlal Nehru University, told Arab News.

“The government is not doing enough to address the existential concerns of the farmers,” he added.

Kumar said that “86 percent of the farmers are small farmers and cultivate less than 2 hectares of land.”

He added: “They generate a small income, and fear that the new laws will not give them the right kind of prices and that they will become landless laborers.”

Most of the farmers have camped along the Delhi border for the past week and refuse to move to a designated protest site allocated by the government.

“We have been protesting since September in Punjab, but the government has been ignoring us. Now we are at the gate of Delhi and suddenly the government is desperate to engage us for talks,” Punjab-based farmer Sarwan Pandher told Arab News.

According to one estimate, more than 50,000 farmers are camping in different borders of Delhi, with medical professionals sounding the alarm over a possible spike in coronavirus cases due to the large gatherings.

“I blame the government for playing with the lives of the people. They should understand the gravity of the pandemic and address the farmer issue urgently,” Dr. Harjit Singh Bhatti of Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum told Arab News.