October 17, 2022
JAKARTA – Many supermarkets in Indonesia mark imported products with labels attached identifying them as such, but do consumers care much where the goods they purchase come from? The Jakarta Post has gone around town asking.
“I use a lot of imported products. Maybe that’s because I am class-conscious without being aware of it. In my head, using imported products automatically places me inside the community of the haves and [the globalists]. Although, when I think about it now, that view is totally wrong and counterproductive,” said Gabriel Alfarizie, a data science student.
Kaleb Sihombing, a 24-year-old law graduate living in Jakarta, said labels showing whether a product was imported or locally made were utterly irrelevant for routine consumption.
Only in certain cases, does the “imported” label signify quality, such as with fruit, he added, wondering aloud why Indonesia could not produce fruit “of equal standard” being a tropical and agricultural country.
“Maybe I still have an ‘inlander’ mentality by saying that imported fruit is better,” Kaleb said with a laugh, sarcastically using a derogatory term from Dutch colonial times to refer to indigenous Indonesians.
Monica Wijaya, a private-sector employee residing in Jakarta, has a very different view when it comes to food. She said she would choose local products as often as possible because of what she believed to be a lower carbon footprint, lower price and less use of preservatives.
“Unfortunately, in supermarkets, most fresh products like fruit and vegetables are not labeled [to show] where they’re from. So, as a consumer, I feel uninformed,” said Monica, after explaining that she generally preferred imported products for nonfood purchases
Rifqi, a product designer, puts a heavy emphasis on where a product is made, arguing that every country or region had its own characteristics for things they produce.
“Countries in Europe prioritize quality over quantity; take Germany for example. They produce more advanced goods in terms of technology, because their industry is more developed, and they don’t pay too much attention to selling their products cheaply,” said Rifqi, contrasting this with Chinese goods.
“And it’s different with countries in Asia like, say, Japan. Although Japanese products are more advanced now [than in the past], they are not as sophisticated as European ones, [because] what they are selling is durability,” added the product designer.
Both Gabriel and Kaleb said where a product was made was not that important, and the former highlighted that, his personal preference for imported goods notwithstanding, local products could often go toe to toe with imported ones, with the added benefit of being cheaper.
However, Kaleb, for his part, said some countries were known for making certain things, like Switzerland or Japan with their watches, hence his preference for imports in specific instances.
“But that view only applies to secondary or tertiary needs. I think for primary ones, we shouldn’t be consuming too many imported products,” said Kaleb. C
hristie Hutauruk, who works for a private bank, said she could not care less whether a product was imported or not. “For me, the most important factor in buying or using a product is the quality and aesthetics of the product itself, in accordance with what I need. When those [criteria] are met, I will use the product,” said Christie.
Naura Nazifah, a housewife and mother of one child, said that, in the past, she did not bother about labels as she tended to buy what she already had experience with. But everything changed when her son was born.
“Now that I have a kid, I pay more attention to the labels, especially about food products for my son. For him, I use mostly local products like Promina, Bumbu Bunda by Elia, Bumboo, etc.,” said Naura.
Aji Septian, a freelancer, and Zafira Ningrum, a 24-year-old social welfare graduate, said they bought many Indonesian-made clothes, but not because the origin actually mattered to them.
The former said he valued a product based on its function, design, quality and price, whereas the latter said she had an eye for sustainability, utility and whether the product contained hazardous materials that might pollute the environment.
“I use imported products, [if] I know about their longevity or utility, just as with local products. So, it’s not so much about where it is made,” said Zafira.
“My consumption or usage preferences depend on what I want, not on whether it is local or imported,” said Aji.