Thu, 04 Dec 2003

Rice production drops in West Java

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

This year's prolonged dry season has caused rice production in West Java to reach 8.9 million tons, falling short of the target of 9.2 million tons.

Provincial agriculture office head Daddy Muljadi said although the rice production missed the target this year, the province was still the country's main rice producer, considering that other rice-producing provinces like East and Central Java were also facing low volumes from the drought.

Daddy said the harsh dry season was worse than in previous years and had affected around 300,000 hectares (ha) of rice fields out of the total 1.7 million ha in the province.

The worst conditions were faced by rice-producing areas such as Indramayu, Cirebon, Majalengka, Subang, Ciamis, Bandung, Cianjur and Sukabumi.

"Some 61,000 ha of farmland have dried up and suffered crop failures," Daddy said on Tuesday. Last year, only half that amount had suffered crop failures.

The Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) forecasted that the dry season would last until November, and that the rainy season would come immediately afterwards.

Data from the West Java agriculture office showed that around 20,000 ha of paddy fields may face floods during the rainy season, especially in Bandung, Indramayu and Karawang.

"The possible floods may cause a drop in rice production by about 100,000 tons this year," Daddy said.

He believed that the worsening situation was caused by various factors, including poor water management, rampant illegal logging and rapid urban development, which had turned vital water catchment areas into housing complexes over the past five years.

"This mismanagement makes the province vulnerable to extreme meteorological conditions, such as floods during rainy seasons and drought in dry seasons," he said. "The condition will recur annually if the fundamental problem -- poor water management -- is not improved."

He was nevertheless optimistic that the series of natural disasters would not affect rice stocks for West Java, as only about 50 percent of total production was consumed by the local market. The remaining 50 percent is distributed to other regions, including Jakarta and Sumatra.

The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) reported that Indonesia's unhusked rice production reached 51.37 million tons in 2002, while the average national consumption of rice was estimated at 28.03 million tons per year.

Indonesia achieved self-sufficiency in primary food commodities in 1983, but a report in The Rice Trader, however, showed that Indonesia imported 3.70 million tons of rice in 2002.