Indonesia's farms, plantations to face 'drier than usual' dry season

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia will likely face a “drier than usual” dry season in key agricultural regions this year, President Jokowi Widodo said on Tuesday, adding that measures must be put in place to ensure food security and price stability.

Indonesia, which is the world’s top producer of palm oil, coconut and the fourth biggest exporter of coffee, will face harsher dry seasons in 30% of its regions, Widodo said, citing the national weather and climate agency, BMKG.

“Therefore, we must properly be prepared so that work and food prices are not impacted,” he said before a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Widodo said that Indonesia must prepare “from now”, by conserving water, prolonging the growing season “by making use of the rainfall we have right now”, and by managing stocks of food staples.

The dry season in Indonesia typically starts in April and ends in October. This year, it is likely to peak in August, BMKG said in its website on March 23.

“Stakeholders and communities are expected to be better prepared and anticipate the possible impact of the dry season, especially in areas vulnerable to meteorological drought, forest and land fires, and the availability of clean water,” BMKG said.

Areas that are likely to experience drier weather include palm producing areas in Riau and North Sumatra as well as main rice producing regions in Java and South Sulawesi, BMKG said.

Indonesia is vulnerable to forest fires in the dry season, often started by uncontrolled fire used by farmers to clear out land for cultivation.

Reporting by Maikel Jefriando and Bernadette Christina Munthe; Writing by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore