A federal fight for access to kratom appears to be spilling across international borders. Rumors have spread that kratom could potentially be banned in Indonesia.
Amidst rumors of potential action from the Indonesian government, advocates are cautioning against overreaction, despite the threat it poses to a significant segment of local farmers. It’s just the latest installment in a back-and-forth that has followed all segments of the legalized kratom market in America, with both sides making their case thousands of miles away in an attempt to influence access at the source.
The rumors were officially addressed in a post by the American Kratom Association, a consumer advocacy group that has a history of working to establish regulations both in America and abroad. No official action has been taken by the Indonesian National Narcotics Board (known locally by the acronym BNN); however, suggestions to the AKA claim that the decision has been made to formally recommend an export ban on kratom beginning next year.
Reviews of recommendations by the BNN suggest that the agency does not have a direct path to writing legislation, meaning that further action would be required within the Indonesian government to turn the suggestion into a codified law. Even so, the mere suggestion of such a ban could have a drastic ripple effect, depending on how far along the process plays out.
In a meeting with the Indonesian president’s chief of staff, the AKA confirmed that 200,000 local farmers rely solely on kratom harvesting as a cash crop, plus the infrastructure around the markets, transportation, and pre-processing. That means that any action to ban kratom exports, which would practically shut down the industry, could affect millions of working people both locally and abroad.
Reports out of Indonesia suggest that anxieties exist over any prospect of sudden change or restriction on a well-established industry in Southeast Asia. Any commercial farming operation is tough to pivot from a particular plant; however, many have expressed concerns over the viability of a switch away from what has been referred to as “the new king of cash crops.”
This is similar to a discussion in 2019, when multiple agencies in Indonesia considered a possible ban on growing and exporting the plant. What’s significant is that even though that was almost four years ago, the timeline was the same: ban kratom by 2024 to give farmers time to transition away.
It’s unclear exactly when the BNN’s suggestion to ban kratom would take effect. That hasn’t stopped anxiety around the potential of an expedited switch for an industry that takes time to transition.
Simply put, any action against exports could essentially ‘lay off’ hundreds of thousands of Indonesian workers with no other source of income.
What isn’t as clear is the reasoning behind the BNN’s position: Is this an earnest effort by local authorities to limit access, or is an outside government or economic presence the reason for the rumblings? This isn’t the first time that the ‘kratom question’ has come up within the Indonesian government. The last time was thanks to a usual suspect.
In that 2019 effort to ban kratom exports, a representative from the AKA told reporters that a “top FDA official” was looking for Indonesia to “help the United States by banning the exportation of kratom.” The FDA denied any attempt to influence laws, saying at the time it “inquired to understand the current status of kratom under Indonesian law” but did not answer follow-up questions from the press about the matter.
The AKA has also cautioned that whispers about access to kratom from Indonesia, a country that produces most of the kratom in the United States, could be an attempt to influence markets. In congressional hearings across the country, AKA representatives have testified about the dangers of “bad actors” looking to gain a lucrative leg up with adulterated or enhanced products. Manipulating information about access to kratom exports could be another way some try to increase profit, contends the AKA.
“The old adage of ‘follow the money’ seems to be the best tool to assess whether the source of these rumors should be taken seriously or not. Do those starting and re-circulating these incorrect rumors stand to reap a financial windfall or not if they create a panic in the U.S. market?”
No matter what force is driving the attempt to influence access to kratom, advocates are hoping this attempt will lead to definitive action around the plant. In their own meetings with Indonesian officials, the AKA has shared science on the safety profile of kratom and other information to contest the BNN’s proposal based on research and available scientific studies.
Advocates are hoping that Indonesian officials will join with the AKA to commit to maintaining access and petition the U.S. government to work with the kratom industry instead of trying to pull the strings with import alerts and closed door discussions with parts of the Indonesian government.
The statement concluded: “The shared goal should be to ensure a sustainable supply of kratom raw materials entering the U.S. that can (be) manufactured into safe finished products that are responsibly used by kratom consumers.”