Imports of lactose, glucose and fructose rose 120 per cent during 2005 to 67,000 tons, up from 30,000 tons the previous year, according to a recent report from the US department of agriculture (USDA).
But demand for synthetic sweeteners has had an even stronger boost. Data released from the National Consumer Protection Board last week shows that saccharin imports were up by 1,700 per cent to 23.23 tons in the first 11 months of 2005 from only 1.3 tons in 2004.
Around 95 per cent of the saccharin came from China.
Thomas Darmawan, president of the country's food and beverage association, said that the high sugar prices were directly responsible for this increase.
"The purchasing power of SMEs who target lower end consumers has been reduced by the high price of sugar so many are looking for other options," he told AP-Foodtechnology.com
The average retail price of local sugar during 2005 was IDR5,763 per kg (US$ 590.6 per ton) or IDR5,932 per kg of imported sugar (US$ 608 per ton). By March 2006, the retail price of local sugar had risen to IDR6,165 per kg (US$ 679.3 per ton), while the average retail price of imported sugar was up to IDR6,235 per kg (US$ 687 per ton).
It is expected that the price of sugar in the domestic market will decline with thestart of the milling season but Indonesia still needs to import a significant amount of sugar to meet demand.
The USDA expects consumption to increase to 3.85 million tons in 2005/06 from 3.6 million tons in 2004/05 owing to growth in the food and beverage industry.
Industry is estimated to need 1.1 million tons. For 2005/06, Indonesia is expected to produce approximately 1.2 million tons of refined sugar, up from last year's production of 722,000 tons to fulfill this growing demand.