* In touch with India, Vietnam on possible rice imports
* Set target of 4.1 mln T for this year's domestic purchases
* Rice imports this year will be less than last year
(Adds detail, comments)
JAKARTA, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Indonesia's state procurement
body, Bulog, has forecast that rice imports will be between
500,000-770,000 tonnes this year and that it is communicating
with sellers in India and Vietnam because they are selling at
cheaper prices than Thailand.
Bulog usually maintains rice stocks at between 1.5 million
and 2 million tonnes by buying from domestic suppliers or
exporters within the region, favouring the former.
"We have set a target for this year's domestic procurement
at 4.1 million tonnes to reach Bulog's rice stock of at least 2
million tonnes at the end of this year," Bulog CEO Sutarto
Alimoeso told reporters on Monday.
"If we can procure 200,000-250,000 tonnes additional rice
domestically in November and December, our total domestic rice
procurement will be around 3.6 million tonnes."
Indonesia's main rice harvest is usually in June or August,
with a second crop towards the end of the first quarter.
The country, which expects unmilled rice output to be about
68 million tonnes this year, has ambitious plans to maintain
stocks of 10 million tonnes by 2014.
It was self-sufficient in rice in the early 1980s, but the
crop gradually declined as farmland was turned into housing for
a booming population. Monthly rice consumption stands at about
2.7 million tonnes and rising.
"Rice imports this year will be less than last year which
was 1.8 million tonnes," Alimoeso said. "It is estimated that
our rice imports this year will be ranging from 500,000 tonnes
to 770,000 tonnes."
In late September, Bulog said Indonesia, one of Asia's major
rice importers, had no plans to import rice for the rest of this
year and will not need to buy until the end of the first quarter
of next year.
"We have been starting to communicate with Vietnam and India
to anticipate if we need to import rice," he added. "Vietnamese
and Indian rice is much cheaper than Thai rice."
Last year, Southeast Asia's largest economy imported rice
from Thailand, Vietnam and India, to ensure it had plentiful
stocks of the staple food.
But that may change this year after Thailand, the world's
top rice exporter, introduced a controversial intervention
scheme under which it pays farmers way above the market price
for their grain.
Traders now estimate that the Thai government has a record
12 million tonnes of milled rice in stockpiles.
Bulog told Reuters last month that it had not imported any
rice this year, but would prefer to buy rice from Vietnam or
India if forced to import, as those countries offer a better
quality and cheaper grain.
Indonesia has signed rice memorandums of understanding with
Thailand for 1 million tonnes, Vietnam for 1.5 million tonnes,
Cambodia for 100,000 tonnes and Myanmar for 200,000 tonnes.
(Reporting by Yayat Supriatna; Writing by Michael Taylor;
Editing by Jacqueline Wong)