Lack of Saudi Trade Pact: How Indonesia Misses Out Million dollars Hajj Catering Opportunity ​​​​

by admin

Indonesia is missing out on #hajj catering opportunities due to a lack of a Saudi trade pact that could have been able to spur greater food exports, including fish, according to Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan.

Indonesia has been eyeing non-traditional markets to drive its exports. While Indonesia and Saudi Arabia share close ties, mostly thanks to the hajj cooperation, there remains a huge room for growth on the economic front.

Zulkifli said that Indonesia could not reap the economic benefits of feeding the many Indonesians coming to Saudi Arabia, be it for #hajj or umrah — the minor Muslim pilgrimage. The minister added that Saudi Arabia had been importing the ingredients of the food served for the pilgrims from Thailand and Vietnam, to name a few.

“Although we are close, many Indonesians go to [Saudi Arabia] for hajj and umrah. The food consumed [by the pilgrims] is imported from other countries like Thailand and Vietnam, be it the fish, vegetables, among others,” Zulkifli told a press briefing in Jakarta on Thursday.

“There are millions of Indonesian pilgrims. … It is Indonesian money, but it is Thailand and Vietnam that are reaping the economic gains. And it turns out it is because we do not have a trade pact [with Saudi Arabia],” Zulkifli said.

Presentation slides shown during the presser revealed that Indonesia was exploring a trade pact with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of which Saudi Arabia is a member of. Other GCC members include Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. Last January, Indonesia sent a trade mission to Saudi Arabia. This mission brought a contract worth $155.7 million involving Indonesian micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Government data shows Indonesia-Saudi Arabia trade grew from $5.6 billion in 2021 to $7.5 billion the following year. However, Indonesia recorded a $3.5 billion deficit with Saudi Arabia in 2022.

The Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) data shows Saudi Arabia imported $71 million worth of fish filets in 2021. They mostly came from Vietnam ($27.2 million). Thailand also became Saudi Arabia’s largest source of imported processed fish imports ($89.2 million) the same year. Followed by Indonesia ($55.9 million).

Vietnam’s top exports to Saudi Arabia in 2021 were coconuts, Brazil nuts, and cashews, amounting to $40.1 million.

Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. Indonesia has a quota to send 241,000 hajj pilgrims this year.


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