The World’s #1 Kratom Supplier and Its Love/Hate Relationship With Their Biggest Cash Crop
The world’s biggest supplier has a complex relationship with their biggest cash crop, kratom. Indonesia produces up to 95% of the world’s kratom supply, and the export is a massive boost to the Indonesian economy.
So why has the Indonesian government been toying with the idea of banning kratom?
It’s a complex issue, and the stakes and actors are constantly shifting. In this article, we update you on the 2021 legal status of kratom in Indonesia, the consequences of an Indonesian kratom ban for the rest of the world, and all the very latest on this important international issue.
Players in the Indonesian Kratom Ban
Indonesia’s equivalent of the US Drug Enforcement Agency is the National Narcotics Agency (known domestically as the BNN). Given the staunch anti-kratom position this agency has taken, it appears that the BNN is the major political force pushing for an Indonesian kratom ban. We’ll cover more on the BNN’s anti-kratom actions below.
Some parties argue that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also pushed Indonesian officials to ban kratom. The FDA addressed these accusations in comments to Inverse, saying that they had “inquired to understand the current status of kratom under Indonesian law” but had “not advocated either formally or informally about a change in law in Indonesia or any other country relative to kratom”.
The other major parties involved are Indonesian non-governmental actors, including kratom farmers and environmental activists. The former profit directly from kratom exports, as the botanical has become one of Indonesia’s principal cash crops. The latter point to the ecological impact that kratom eradication efforts would cause, as kratom makes up a significant portion of the region’s natural ecology and helps both to reduce carbon emissions and maintain biodiversity.
Kratom Remains Legal in Indonesia, But Its Future is Uncertain
As of 2021, kratom is still legal for cultivation and export throughout Indonesia. But Indonesian kratom has a contentious history, with many legal efforts to regulate, reclassify, or even outright ban it still in the works.
Here’s a quick overview of the most important recent events surrounding Indonesia’s plans for banning kratom:
- As of November 2019, Indonesian news sources were reporting that Indonesia would completely ban kratom by 2022. This followed an apparent decision by the BNN to reclassify kratom as a Class I Narcotic, the same tier as heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine.
- In August 2020, the Pontianak Post reported that kratom had been legally reclassified, officially allowing it to be cultivated and exported for “legal medicinal raw materials”.
- Later that month, the BNN was still talking about a kratom ban, but with a now delayed 2024 start date.
As of yet, the BNN’s planned 2024 ban has not been overturned. However, it’s clear that other Indonesian agencies disagree over the need for a ban. Legal reclassification efforts such as those carried out in 2020 may deter the BNN’s attempts at an Indonesian kratom ban, but the future is uncertain.
Indonesia Produces Most of the World’s Kratom
Indonesia is, by far, the world’s largest source of kratom. Although most kratom strains are named for regions throughout Southeast Asia, most such strains are cultivated within Indonesia by using the namesake region’s agricultural practices.
In fact, many such namesake regions have enacted their own regional bans, effectively leaving Indonesia with a near-monopoly on kratom. Most sources suggest that 90 to 95% of the world’s kratom comes from Indonesia.
Simply put, the global kratom industry is utterly reliant on a supply of kratom direct from Indonesia. Therefore, banning kratom would cause massive upset for the industry, disrupt the supply of kratom products, and dramatically restrict consumers’ access to kratom throughout the world.
As Goes Indonesia, So Goes the Global Kratom Supply
That’s a staggering figure, and it clearly demonstrates the significance that would result from an Indonesian ban on kratom. Indonesia’s kratom exports would cease, causing global supplies to diminish such that kratom would all but disappear from the international stage.
Were Indonesia to ban kratom, the supply of international kratom would effectively disappear overnight.
Granted, this could be an opportunity for other regions to begin mass-cultivating kratom and fill in the vacuum. But that would be difficult, as Indonesia’s natural agricultural conditions are uniquely conducive to growing kratom. And even if a new country were to become the predominant international kratom suppliers, an Indonesian kratom ban would doubtless cause significant delays in the global supply of kratom, and it’s unlikely that the industry would ever fully recover from such an event.
In effect, the end of Indonesian kratom exporting would essentially spell the end of kratom in the US and around the globe.