* Imports will be blow to govt push for food self-sufficiency
* But could further stoke rising global prices
* El Nino typically brings dry weather to Asia
* Indonesia did not import white sugar last year (Adds detail, comment)
By Michael Taylor
JAKARTA, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Indonesia is expected to ship in 100,000 tonnes of white sugar in 2015 after importing none of the sweetener last year, an industry body said, as dry conditions from the El Nino weather pattern crimp local output.
That could help stoke global prices that have shot up in recent months on worries over an international supply deficit, but it is a blow to President Joko Widodo’s high-profile push for food self-sufficiency.
The Southeast Asian nation’s white sugar production is expected to drop 4 percent to 2.5 million tonnes this year from 2.6 million in 2014, the executive director of the Indonesian Sugar Association told Reuters. He said it would fall to 2.4 million tonnes in 2016.
“The (domestic) price is good but yields are going down,” Tito Pranolo said on Thursday.
“We expect the year-end stock will be lower this year because production is going down due to dry weather.”
Indonesia usually enters its wet season in October and November, but it is expected to face dry conditions from El Nino this year. The weather pattern typically leads to scorching weather across Asia.
Indonesia’s sugarcane plantations cover 460,000 hectares, mostly on the island of Java, with about 64 sugar mills crushing cane into white sugar for domestic use in an industry that is tightly controlled by the government
President Widodo, who has set ambitious food self-sufficiency targets this year, met with the sugar association last week to discuss ways to increase domestic output and modernize the sector.
The government and industry discussed how to increase production to 5 million tonnes over the next five years, and are now looking at ways to expand the total sugarcane plantation area by 350,000 hectares, Pranolo said.
“(Widodo) asked us how we can increase cane production because right now we are one of the biggest importers,” he said.
With a growing population of 250 million, Indonesia was the world’s second-largest sugar exporter in the 1930s but has since struggled to boost output in the face of red tape over land licenses, competition for land and under-investment.
To protect local farmers against price fluctuations and help guarantee supplies, the Indonesian trade ministry sets a floor price for white sugar, which is currently 8,900 rupiah ($0.66) per kg compared with 8,500 rupiah in August last year, Pranolo added.
Local retail prices have climbed almost 15 percent over the past year to about 12,750 rupiah per kg, according to trade ministry data. ($1 = 13,525.0000 rupiah) (Reporting by Michael Taylor; Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina; Editing by Joseph Radford)