Using El Nino/Southern Oscillation Climate Data to Predict Rice Production in Indonesia

Despite the strong signal of El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events on climate in the Indo-Pacific region, models linking ENSO-based climate variability to seasonal rice production and food security in the region have not been well developed or widely used in a policy context. This study successfully measures the connections among sea surface temperature anamolies (SSTAs), rainfall, and rice production in Indonesia during the past three decades. Regression results show particularly strong connections on Java, where 55% of the country's rice is grown. Two-thirds of the interannual variance in rice plantings and 40% of the interannual variance in rice production during the main (wet) season on Java are explained by year-to-year fluctuations in SSTAs measured 4 and 8 months in advance, respectively. These effects are cumulative; during strong El Nino years, production shortfalls in the wet season are not made up later in the crop year. The analysis demonstrates that quantitative predictions of ENSO's effects on rice harvests can provide an additional tool for managing food security in one of the world's most populous and important rice-producing countries.