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US drought already rippling out into the world

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Already some places are grappling with the issue. Take Indonesia, where soybeans are used to make tofu, the staple protein for the country's poor. There, soybean prices have risen 33 percent in the past month, and are already causing tensions. Yesterday, there were clashes in Jakarta and other major cities in markets as a coalition of tofu producers sought to enforce a national production strike protesting against a 5 percent soybean import duty.

At the Rawamangun wet market in East Jakarta, members of the Indonesian Tempeh and Tofu Cooperative (Kopti) attacked tofu and tempeh sellers who went against a verbal directive not to sell the two food items. Tofu and tempeh, derived from soybeans and eaten mainly with rice, are staples for many Indonesians as they are among the cheapest sources of protein... Suyanto, head of the East Jakarta chapter of Kopti, said the sweep was aimed to create a common goal between producers and traders as well as demonstrate against high soybean costs. The commodity’s price has risen 33 percent in the past three weeks to Rp 8,000 (85 cents) per kilogram, mainly due to a drought in the United States that has shortened supplies.

The government has already promised to scrap the 5 percent duty on Aug. 1. But you don't have to be a math genius to realize that a 5 percent cut in costs will have little impact on prices that have risen by a third. Indonesia's import duty is to protect local producers in a quest for domestic food security. But in practice, such measures amount to a tax on the country's landless urban factory workers and others among the poorest and continues, despite the government having removed long-standing soybean subsidies at the urging of international organizations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund four years ago.

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