If we prepare well, we will not have to import food."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The government does not need to import food commodities to face the impacts of El Nino on Indonesia, Vice President M. Jusuf Kalla said.

"Effects of the El Nino phenomenon are expected to be moderate. If we prepare well, we will not have to import food," Kalla stated while officiating the Environmental and Forestry Week at the Jakarta Convention Center here on Thursday.

According to the forecast of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), Indonesia will be hit by El Nino from July to November.

This natural phenomenon usually triggers drought that could affect the harvest of crops.

If El Nino persists till the planting season in October, the country could be forced to import food commodities, Kalla explained.

Indonesia had been severely affected by El Nino in 1998. The government had been forced to import as much as five million tons of food commodities, the vice president recalled.

However, he is optimistic that the impacts of El Nino will moderate this year.

Moreover, the Ministry of Agriculture has planned to set up a special team to tackle the effects of El Nino, particularly by providing water pumps in drought-hit regions.

Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman affirmed that the ministry will distribute 20 thousand water pumps in drought-affected regions.

Across Indonesia, 96 districts covering a total area of 198 thousand hectares have been identified as prone to drought.

The ministry has sent a team to Indramayu, West Java, to distribute water pumps to local communities facing a shortage of clean water.

Furthermore, the meteorological agency has predicted weak El Nino, which could reduce precipitation to 40 to 80 percent, particularly in the provinces of Sumatra, East Java, Bali, West and East Nusa Tenggara, and Papua.

In 1997-1998, Indonesia had experienced a prolonged drought induced by the strongest ever recorded El Nino, which had triggered widespread fires.

The greatest loss caused by forest and land fires in Indonesia occurred in 1997, when fires wiped out millions of hectares of forest and plantation areas and inflicted US$2.45 billion in losses.

Editor: Priyambodo RH
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