Jakarta (ANTARA) - People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Bambang Soesatyo has asked the government to secure rice availability as the El Nino phenomenon could potentially cause an extreme dry season, which, it is feared, will affect agricultural harvest.

Soesatyo, in a statement received here on Friday, said that several efforts could be made to achieve this, including encouraging the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) to continue to absorb rice, improving irrigation, mapping swampland areas, and preparing farmers to face the extreme dry season.

He called for commitment from the government, Bulog, and the National Food Agency (Bapanas) for preparing the proper measures to mitigate any El Niño impact that may emerge.

The step is needed, especially because the dry season that is projected to peak in the second half of 2023 is expected to affect rice production in the country, he added.

He also asked the government to consider importing rice in a measured manner and as a second option by adjusting to national rice needs so that the availability of rice remains secure.

He said that data from Bapanas has shown that Bulog's total rice reserves, as of early July 2023, stood at just 627 thousand tons, which is much lower than the safe threshold of above 1 million tons desired by the government.

The MPR Speaker asked the government, along with Bapanas, to intensify the campaign of food diversification to respond to the challenge of an increase in rice consumption as a staple food, in line with the increasing population.

"The aim is to reduce Indonesia's dependence on rice as a staple food," he explained.

He then appealed to the community to remain calm and wise in buying rice by not making large purchases to prevent rice scarcity.

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Translator: Melalusa Susthira, Raka Adji
Editor: Azis Kurmala
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