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Drought hits Indonesian rice
JAKARTA ,Severe drought has hit Indonesia's main rice growing areas on Java island, threatening the loss of up to 1.2 million tonnes of unhooked rice, or 780,000 tonnes of milled rice, government officials said on Tuesday.
But unhooked rice output this year is still expected to exceed 50 million tonnes, and a senior official at state logistics firm Bulldog said national rice stocks were adequate until the end of the year and there were no plans for imports.
Separately, Australia's meat industry says the Indonesian drought had cut live cattle exports to the country as local beef producers had been forced to sell stock into the market.
Government officials said the prolonged dry season had already destroyed 91,000 hectares of rice and put another 450,000 hectares at risk, on Java Island, with West and Central Java provinces the hardest hit.
Java produces more than 60 percent of Indonesia's rice a key staple for the world's fourth most populous country of 210 million people.
Indonesia's statistics bureau forecast in June that output would reach 51.83 million tonnes this year, up from 51.49 million tonnes in 2002.
The Bulog official said rice stocks currently stood at 1.85 million tonnes.
The director of plant protection at the agriculture ministry, Stuart Alimuso, told Reuters that poor water management was partly to blame for the losses in Java.
"The climate isn't the only factor, but hydrological conditions and drying water springs have caused the drought," Alimuso said.
Lack of water for irrigation required immediate attention, Alimuso said, adding that many irrigation systems needed rehabilitation.
The 1997/98 El Nino, a periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean that wreaks havoc with weather patterns, caused Indonesia to lose some 1.5 million tonnes of unhooked rice or 900,000 tonnes of milled rice.
Alimuso said the potential loss this year was still under that level, although the size of the damaged area was close.
In a bid to overcome a potential rice shortage, the government opened up 420,000 hectares of new rice fields outside Java this year.
To date, around 68 percent of that mostly in Kalimantan and Sumatra islands has been cultivated and is expected to produce almost one million tonnes of rice, Alimuso said.
MGR Archive 27.8.2003
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