Wed, 24 Aug 1994

Drought may slash rice output by 4%

JAKARTA (JP): The current drought may slash four percent off this year's rice output from last year's production of 48.1 million tons, a senior agriculture official said yesterday.

Director General of Food Crops and Horticulture at the Ministry of Agriculture Amrin Kahar told a press conference that the current drought has caused the failure of 111,000 hectares of rice fields, out of the total area of 441,000 hectares affected by the drought.

"The nation's rice sufficiency is still safe. Nevertheless, it is a warning for us all," Amrin said.

He explained that this year's production will likely reach 46.2 million tons of unhusked rice, which is equivalent to about 30 million tons of husked rice, while consumption may reach 26.3 million tons of husked rice.

Indonesia, which used to be the world's largest rice importer, became self-sufficient in 1984.

"But we must be cautious with rice supplies because we need to allocate about 3.5 percent of production from seedling," Amrin said. "Furthermore, our post harvest losses are still high."

He said the total loss from the 111,000 hectares of paddy fields is almost 500,000 tons of rice, with a potential production estimate of 4.5 tons of rice per hectare.

Amrin said this year's drought is similar to the one in 1991, considered to be the worst in the last 10 years, although the current dry spell is not as severe.

The 1991 drought affected 844,000 hectares of paddy fields, 190,000 of which perished. The dry season affected only 18,000 hectares in 1992 and 53,000 hectares in 1993.


Amrin warned that this year's crop failures could be more serious than expected because the drought is still underway. "We are haunted by more crop failures as the dry spell could extend until the end of September."

The dry season usually lasts from April through September.

Amrin said the increase of areas affected by the current drought has been swift. He illustrated that in less than 10 days the increase had reached nine percent, or almost 30,000 hectares of new rice fields which had been affected by the drought.

Last month, the Ministry of Public Works claimed that only 10,000 hectares of the 73,000 hectares of rice fields affected by the drought had perished. And now 110,000 hectares of 364,000 hectares of affected paddy fields have collapsed, or 11 times the amount of last month's areas.

The areas seriously hit by the current dry spell lie mostly in Java, which accounts for 80 percent of total fields affected by the drought. The provinces worse hit outside Java are South Sumatra, Lampung, West Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, North Sumatra and South Kalimantan.

Amrin pointed out that his directorate general is very concerned with the people in the drought-affected areas, who have no work now that their crops have failed.

He said the government will try to provide free rice seeds for the farmers in anticipation of the coming rainy season. The government will also reschedule loans taken by the farmers.

To save food crops during the remainder of the current dry spell, Amrin said his directorate general has encouraged farmers to use irrigation efficiently, in addition to pumping.

Farmers should also try to reduce post-harvest losses from the current level of 14 percent, he said.

He acknowledged that the Bogor Institute of Agriculture has introduced equipment that will be able to reduce post-harvest losses to about 10 percent of production. (rid)