Jakarta – The National Food Agency (Bapanas) is expecting a two-month delay in next year's harvest due to an extended drought nationwide caused by El Nino, with a projection that the earliest harvest will occur in May.
Bapanas head Arief Prasetyo Adi warned that this delay could lead to a rise in rice prices as supplies will be strained in the first quarter of next year. The first rice harvest usually occurs in March or April.
For this year, the government had to implement weather modification technology in collaboration with the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) to ensure adequate food supplies. Despite experiencing a delay, Arief said they managed to create rain in November.
Arief said that Bapanas had started preparing for the first planting season of next year since September. He hoped for continued support from state-owned fertilizer holding firm PT Pupuk Indonesia in securing adequate fertilizer supplies throughout the planting period.
"[It is expected that] 70 percent of the rice crop will be in the first half [next year], so the second half is for the rest of the harvest. This first half must be successful, with the seedlings and the water," he said.
In the meantime, Bapanas has instructed the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) to ensure that rice reserves remain above 1 million tonnes to meet domestic needs. Bulog currently has 1.4 million tonnes of rice in stock and has been authorized to import 1.5 million tonnes.
"We must ensure that our food reserves are above 1 million tonnes. Bulog has it. Availability is the first [priority], then we adjust the price," Arief said.
Beyond ensuring rice availability, Arief said the government would also implement market operations through the Food Price Supply Stabilization (SPHS) program to maintain rice price stability. This way, the government can minimize the need for future rice imports from Vietnam or Thailand.