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Jakarta Post

Haze crisis, extended dry season leave farmers on the brink

  • Syamsul Huda M. Suhari and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb

    The Jakarta Post

Gorontalo/Padang   /   Thu, October 15, 2015   /  03:06 pm

The absence of rain in many parts of the country over the past several months has disrupted rice production, leading to low harvest yields.

In Gorontalo, farmers in Bone Bolango regency have been struggling to provide proper irrigation to their fields, as the region has received no rain for four months.

Abdullah Ali, a farmer from North Toto subdistrict, said the water crisis had cost him dearly.

'€œMy 2,500-square-meter rice field usually produces around 250 kilograms of rice every harvest time. Earlier this month, however, we could only harvest less than 100 kg of rice from the field because of a lack of irrigation,'€ he said on Wednesday.

Abdullah, who inherited the field from his late parents, said he had to share the yield with his four siblings. Bringing home only 20 kg of rice, Abdullah said the stock would last his family less than a month.

'€œIt'€™s utterly ironic. We own a rice field but will end up buying rice from other people,'€ he said.

Daud Usman, another farmer from the provincial capital of Gorontalo, said this year'€™s extended dry season had forced him to postpone his plan to replant his fields after the recent harvest season.

'€œI have no option,'€ he said. '€œI have to wait until rain falls [before replanting], as there is not enough water for irrigation,'€ Daud said.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has warned that the dry season this year could last longer than in previous years because of the El Niño weather phenomenon, which affects temperatures and rainfall patterns.

The BMKG predicts that the El Niño effect will extend Indonesia'€™s dry season, which normally takes place between April and September, until the end of the year.

The prolonged dry season has also affected rice production, with the country expected to miss its rice production target of 45 million tons for the year.

Last month, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) was planning to purchase around 1.5 million tons of rice from Thailand and Vietnam on concerns that rising prices of the country'€™s main staple food could cause social unrest. The statement, however, was immediately contradicted by President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo, who said that the country'€™s current rice reserve, which amounted to 1.7 million tons, was still enough to meet demand.

Bulog'€™s Gorontalo chief F. Sjamsuddin meanwhile confirmed that the extended dry season had hampered efforts to maintain sufficient rice stocks. In September, Sjamsuddin said, his office had been able to buy only 4,000 tons of rice from local farmers, far from the 11,000 tons targeted for the whole month.

This year'€™s extended dry season has also hampered the government'€™s efforts to extinguish extensive land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, which have produced thick haze that has severely degraded air quality in many regions over the past several weeks.

In Solok regency, West Sumatra, local coffee farmers reported that they had been struggling to process their harvested coffee beans, as haze has blocked the sunlight needed to dry the beans.

'€œOur coffee beans cannot be properly sun-dried. Many of them have even been infested with fungus,'€ said Syafrizal, a farmer from Lembah Gumanti district.

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