FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

SPECIAL REPORT

FOOD CONCERNS MOUNT IN PARTS OF INDONESIA FOLLOWING SERIOUS FLOODS

1 December 2000

The worst torrential rains in decades over the last week, have resulted in floods and landslides and reportedly killed almost a hundred people in Northern and Western Sumatra. There are fears that the death toll could rise further as rescue operations continue, with hundreds still missing and more rains forecast as the North East Monsoon sets in. A number of the worst affected areas, which included Solok, Pesisir Selatan, Tanah Datar, Padang Paiaman and Pasaman, are reported to be experiencing serious food shortages as access remains extremely difficult.

Aside from the unprecedented rainfall experienced in the last week, overall weather patterns during the 1990's have been erratic and unfavourable in some years. A serious drought in 1994 significantly reduced rice production, whilst further drought associated with El Niño-related weather phenomena in 1997/98 also affected production. The latest deluge in the region comes after serious monsoon floods devastated a number of other countries in Asia, with Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, India and Bangladesh the worst affected.

In addition to human and property losses, thousands of hectares of dry season rice, which was near harvest, were also damaged. The pattern of rainfall is an important determinant of agricultural production in the country, particularly during the main wet season, which extends from October to March. Approximately 60 percent of the annual rice crop, which has averaged around 32 million tonnes (milled) in the last five years, is produced during the wet season and 40 percent in the dry season.

Sumatra is the second largest rice producer in Indonesia after Java and would normally produce between 20 and 25 percent of the aggregate output in a year, with almost 45 percent of this coming from the northern and western provinces. The table below, indicates food crop production in Sumatra in 1998/99.

Foodcrop Production in Sumatra 1998/99 ('000 tonnes)

Province
Total paddy
Maize
Soybean
Cassava
Sweet potato
Groundnut
Banda Aceh
1 343
480
87
81
34
12
North Sumatra
3 174
400
34
448
120
26
West Sumatra
1 802
50
9
94
36
9
Riau
391
36
8
65
13
4
Jambi
530
14
13
70
19
2
South Sumatra
1 690
94
17
478
42
12
Bengkulu
378
55
7
103
94
8
Lampung
1 944
948
44
1 690
49
9
Sumatra
11 255
1 647
219
3 028
407
84
% of national total
23
20
17
20
22
13

Although reports indicate that rubber plantations on the island, a key producing area, were not seriously damaged by floods, the resultant disruption to transportation and communication systems, have, nonetheless, had an impact on supplies and marketing, driving up prices.

Notwithstanding the recent flood disaster, the overall food situation in the country continues to stabilise, following the Asian economic crisis in 1997/1998 and El Niño related weather disturbances which affected agricultural production. These eroded the livelihood of large sections of the population, particularly in urban areas, increasing poverty levels and vulnerability to food insecurity.

For the current calendar year milled rice production is likely to be a favourable 33 million tonnes, 3 percent above last year and some 4 percent above the five year average. Higher production is attributed to a long wet season and only minor incidences of pests and disease. The area harvested remained around an average 11.6 million hectares.

In view of favourable rice production this year, current calendar year imports are likely to be around 2.2 million tonnes; some 12 percent lower than forecast earlier. In 1998/99 the country had record rice imports of around 6 million tonnes. The figure below indicates relative rice imports from the 1970s to 2001.

Undisplayed Graphic

Despite a satisfactory situation overall, however, concerns remain for food security in parts of the country affected by civil unrest, which includes Aceh in the north-western tip of Sumatra which was also seriously affected by the recent floods.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Telex 610181 FAO I; Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG ) for further information if required.

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