Using El Nino/Southern Oscillation climate data to improve food policy planning in Indonesia

Despite the impact of El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events on climate in the Indo-Pacific region, models linking ENSO-based climate variability to Indonesian cereal production are not well developed. This study measures connections among sea-surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs), rainfall, and Indonesian rice and corn production from 1971 to 1998. Year-to-year August SSTA fluctuations explain about half the interannual variance in paddy production during the main (wet) season. These effects are cumulative for rice: during strong El Nino years, wet season production shortfalls are not made up subsequently. For corn, the cumulative area sown is actually higher in El Nino years than La Nina years. Indonesia's paddy production varies on average by 1.4 million tons for every 1 C change in August SSTAs. The paper illustrates how an SSTA model might assist policy makers with budgetary processes, and private sector cereal traders with framing production expectations.