INDONESIA – NUSA DUA, (Reuters) – Haze due to forest fires in top palm oil producer Indonesia has likely affected the quality of palm fruits and production of the vegetable oil this year, a leading industry analyst James Fry said on Thursday.
Indonesia has been battling forest fires for months as the El Nino weather pattern this year exacerbated the annual drought. The fires caused thick haze which often drifted to neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.
“The haze is reducing the oil they got from fruit bunches because the fruits aren’t quite as big as they should be,” Fry, the chairman of commodities consultancy LMC International said in an interview on the sidelines of a palm conference in Indonesia.
A total of 857,756 hectares of area (2.12 million acres) had been burned this year, government data showed, the worst since 2015.
Combined with the prolonged drought and cut back on fertilizer due to low palm prices, he said it is “quite possible” there will be no growth in palm output this year in Indonesia.
“(Palm planters) are saying they are still waiting for proper rain to come,” he said.
Indonesia’s weather agency had expected rain to start falling this month, but rain so far have been sparse and fires continue in Sumatra and Kalimantan island, the centers of Indonesia’s palm area.
Alpian Arahman, a palm planter from Indonesia’s Bangka Belitung Province off Sumatra island, said the rainy season has yet to arrive at his plantation.
“It is looking like we won’t have enough rain until December and this could delay the next harvest season.
“We should be fertilizing by now but we can’t fertilize dry soil, we are waiting for the rain,” he said.
Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama