Indonesia could double its rice imports in 2014 against last year to keep the domestic price of the grain stable amidst a possible El Nino weather pattern and two elections in April and July.

The US Department of Agriculture forecasts that Indonesia will import 1.5 million tonnes of rice this year, while an economist at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in Bangkok estimated total imports of 1.1 million tonnes.

According to the economist, dry weather late last year and flooding in early 2014 hurt harvests in Indonesia’s agricultural production, particularly on the main rice-growing island of Java.

In addition, El Nino, which is forecast to develop around mid-year, usually brings dry conditions to Southeast Asia.

However, the Indonesia national logistics agency (Bulog) will decide the volume of purchased rice to ensure the country’s annual food stockpile at 1.5-2 million tonnes after the main rice harvest in Indonesia, which is usually in June or August.-VNA