The price of Indonesian staples like chilli is heating up, with spikes of at least 400 percent this year, As Amy Pollock reports, it's down to poor infrastructure, something President Joko Widodo has so far failed to improve.
For Indonesians, chilli is as essential as salt and pepper. But diners - and farmers - are feeling the heat of fluctuating prices. A kilo has swung between 20,000 and 80,000 rupiah in the last year, hitting street food vendors like Eti hard. (SOUNDBITE) (Bahasa Indonesia) FOOD STALL COOK, ETI SAYING: "The current chilli price is expensive, but because we need it for our food stall we have to buy it no matter what." Southeast Asia's biggest economy is growing at its slowest pace in six years. Half its population still live on less than $2 a day, making price spikes on rice, sugar, beef and chillies devastating. That's something the government acknowledges. Sofyan Djalil is the National Development Planning Minister. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLANNING MINISTER, SOFYAN DJALIL SAYING: "You know, if we need to import, we have to import, okay? Because you know, of inflation, and then of course El Nino, the inflation take place, it hurt very hard if you let the poorest of the poor of our society." Although the government blames the weather, the route food takes to the table is part of the problem. Poor roads, unreliable irrigation and a lack of refrigeration mean almost 40 percent of fresh produce is spoiled along the way. Rahmat farms chillies in West Java. (SOUNDBITE) (Bahasa Indonesia) INDONESIAN CHILLI FARMER, RAHMAT SAYING: "Farming is like gambling, because when we plant those chillies today and harvest them in three months, we cannot predict the price." President Joko Widodo took office last year promising to improve infrastructure, increase planting areas and help farmers access credit. But so far his administration has failed to spend the $22 billion set aside in the budget. He blames a lack of co-ordination among ministers. Either way it's led to a big slump in his popularity - and the prospect of even higher chilli prices won't help that.