JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesia's weather agency said on Friday (March 18) rainfall in the resource-rich country will normalise this year after a wet 2021, but the dry season will start later than usual in most areas due to the lingering effects of the La Nina weather pattern.
More than 70 per cent of the archipelago will see the dry season start late or on time this year, between April and June, as the La Nina weakens gradually, weather agency chief Dwikorita Karnawati said in a news conference.
She said rainfall will be closer to normal this year compared with last year when it was heavier than usual. The dry season is expected to reach its peak in August, she added.
With 2022 expected to be drier than last year, the agency has warned local authorities of the potential for forest fires, deputy head of the agency Urip Haryoko said, adding that some hotspots have already been detected in provinces like Aceh, Riau, South and North Sumatra, and West Kalimantan.
Home to the largest rainforests outside the Amazon and Congo, Indonesia regularly experiences forest fires largely because of land clearing for palm and pulp plantations.
In 2019, fires caused haze to blanket the region, prompting 900,000 people to report respiratory illnesses and US$5.2 billion (S$7.05 billion) in damage, according to the World Bank.
"The delay of the dry season and normal rainfall could have a good impact on food commodities and plantations," Mr Haryoko said.
"However, we need to be ready for the potential of pests that thrive in such conditions," he said.
Last year's heavy rainfall caused disruptions in mining operations in Indonesia and weather also played a part in the drop in palm oil output last year, industry groups have said.