Wildfires, smoke and drought are inflicting an increasingly painful toll on Indonesian agriculture, hurting everything from oil palm plantations to rubber trees and rice fields.
Raging forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo may curb supplies of palm oil and rubber, while a longer than usual dry season in Java has wilted some of the country’s rice crop, which is the main staple for 270 million people.
Indonesia is the world’s top producer of palm oil and second-largest supplier of rubber.
Smoke from illegal burning to clear land in Indonesia has been worse than usual this year and spread across Southeast Asia, causing flight disruptions and respiratory illness for thousands of people. While Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered a crackdown on arsonists, there may be little respite soon as the rainy season won’t start before late October, the weather bureau says. Forest fires to clear land have also wrought havoc in the Brazilian Amazon.
Drought and haze have set back ripening of palm oil fruit and disrupted operations at plantations and mills, potentially slowing production growth this year to about half last year’s rate of 13 percent, said Joko Supriyono, chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association.
Dry weather normally takes a while to show up in production, with a greater impact likely to be seen in 2020, he said.