Indonesia will extend its rice for the poor programme until the end of 2024, but handouts will be made only every other month, the head of the national food agency (NFA) said on Monday.

The government of Southeast Asia's largest economy has been giving 10 kilograms of rice monthly to more than 20 million low-income families since March 2023, a programme set to finish in June.

The policy was intended to help poor families cope with rising prices of the staple as harvests were disrupted by drought influenced by the El Nino weather pattern.

The government will extend the programme, but will only hand out rice every two months - in August, October and December - NFA chief Arief Prasetyo Adi said in a statement.

"The continuity of this rice handout is important, especially as food prices globally have started to show an increase, so we must start preparing," he said.

In the domestic market, rice prices have eased since harvests began in April. However, prices of other foodstuffs such as chili and shallots have risen in May, according to data from the country's statistics bureau. (Reporting by Stefanno Sulaiman; Editing by Gayatri Suroyo and Kirsten Donovan)