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Understanding the Geography of Indonesia and Its Effect on Kratom

The United States is home to about 330 million people, who are spread across some 3.797 million square miles. I live in the third-most populated country in the world. It’s behind China and India, respectively, and directly in front of the Republic of Indonesia, which is home to 270 million residents.

Indonesia, a group of islands spread across Southeast Asia below Vietnam, Laos, and other countries in the extreme southeast portion of mainland Asia, is made up of just 735,000 square miles, or smaller than the U.S. by a factor of five.

The population density of the island of Java, home to 145 million Indonesians, making it the single most populated island in all of Indonesia. Java’s population density if 2,903 people per square mile. Sumatra is home to 50 million and is home to just 272 people per square mile, whereas Kalimantan, the largest island in the country, houses just 16 million people at 76 residents per square mile.

Much of Kalimantan, Indonesia’s official name for its portion of the island of Borneo, of which about three-fourths is Kalimantan.

Weakley County, Tennessee, on the other hand, which is roughly as small and sparsely-populated as the rest of Northwest Tennessee’s counties, all eight of them, at a population density of 60 people per square mile.

The only places in Tennessee, for example, that have a population density anywhere even remotely close to the island of Java are Shelby County, home to Memphis, is home to about 1,200 people per square mile, whereas Davidson County, where Nashville can be found, is home to a little less than 1,150. These are the only places in the entire state of Tennessee that even start to come close to the population density of Java.

Understanding What Kind of Tree Kratom Is

Kratom trees indeed remain green all year round in their natural habitat, on or near the equator. Mitragyna speciosa trees are deciduous, which are the many types of trees that lose their leaves every single year between the end of Fall and the beginning of Winter. Evergreen trees are the only instance of all-year-round coverage from certain species of trees, available in the Volunteer State along with many other places across the globe.

Even though kratom would lose its leaves every fall and gain them back in the spring if it was grown outside in Tennessee, just like all deciduous trees, kratom trees constantly bear leaves in Indonesia.

Note: “Kratom” doesn’t just refer to Mitragyna speciosa, as it refers to other plants that grow broad leaves and are similar to trees that belong to the taxonomical family of Rubiaceae.

Kratom is part of the Rubiaceae family of flowering plants that also includes coffee, Rubiaceae Coffea, and Rubiaceae Cinchona, the go-to source around the world for quinine, a treatment for malaria and babesiosis that is also often find in tonic water.

Where Is Kratom Said to be Grown?

There are some varieties of kratom with names that include “Plantation,” signifying that the variety was grown on somebody’s kratom “farm,” if you will. However, there are very, very few of these in the country due to a simple lack of land. Since kratom grows like a weed in the wild, particularly in areas covered by rainforest, of which Kalimantan fits the bill.

Most kratom is purported to grow on these farms, but it simply isn’t true. Which one sounds better — (A) a kratom vendor growing their own inventory via a private plot of kratom trees on land they own themselves or (B) someone collecting kratom leaves from Mitragyna speciosa trees in the wild? The second choice sounds better to most consumers, by far.

The reason I bring up the comparison of Indonesia and the United States’ size and population is that it’s easier to understand why most kratom wouldn’t come from other parts of the island.

I have not heard many, if any, allegations that Indonesians grow kratom indoors in my time with kratom. Remember the primary factor that limits the ability of Indonesians to operate active kratom “farms” in their home country is the fact that there’s not much room to do so outdoors, let alone inside.

Understanding the Process of Breeding Kratom Trees

Cross-pollination is a technique in which breeders place pollen from male plants of a particular species in the pistil of a female plant of the same species, both of which have different desired characteristics. The purpose of cross-pollinating plants is to produce new varieties of them — in this case, it’s kratom.

Cannabis is so strong today because of the advancement of technology and the relatively short maturity time of most cannabis plants, somewhere between four and seven months on average, usually, which has allowed breeders the opportunity to pack far more instances of cross-pollination into their breeding efforts than with kratom, for example, which takes much longer than flowers — such as cannabis — to reach maturity due to the fact kratom is a tree.

Note that maturity of kratom trees and other plants capable of cross-pollination helps breeders recognize what traits that a given variety has and will continue to keep throughout its lifetime. Another use of maturity when it comes to breeders is that they can know when it’s time for involved plants to accept pollen and yield seeds that will grow plants boasting different genetics — or, in other words, knowing when it’s time to pollinate female plants when breeding.

No matter how quickly kratom trees may mature — maturity also helps breeders know when males and females can start producing pollen, capable of traveling to female flowers’ pistils, and potentially yielding seeds that contain a mixture of the desired genetics from the cross-pollination of the two involved plants. However, in many cases, the one or two desired genetic traits prevalent in certain plants aren’t guaranteed to be picked up in the offspring of the female involved in the breeding process in conjunction with the female’s desired trait(s).

Put simply, cannabis can be crossed many times in a human’s lifetime, unlike kratom. Also, because it doesn’t require as stringent environmental conditions as Mitragyna speciosa trees, it’s easier to experiment genetically with cannabis.

Indonesian kratom vendors would like for consumers in nations around the world in which kratom isn’t native to not know about the difficulties of using selective breeding to hopefully yield stronger kratom, kratom with a different proportion of alkaloids, or batches of Mitragyna speciosa leaves that have better characteristics than other wild-grown forms.

Here’s What You Can Take From This Breeding Information

Since selective breeding doesn’t offer great benefits with kratom, and because it is rarely practiced on a consistent, generation-after-generation basis, selective breeding is not often carried out by even Indonesian kratom market participants. This means there is no such thing as cultivars or varieties that are noticeably different than one another and got that way as the result of deliberate breeding practices carried out by one or more human breeders of plants like kratom trees.

We can now deduce that we shouldn’t purchase batches of kratom that are said to be grown on farms of plantations for more money than their wild-grown counterparts. Some people may pay more for kratom that’s been farmed legitimately instead of just purported to have been farmed, though there’s not much reason to do so.

As time continues, the effects of crossing kratom trees will become more evident; this won’t be happening soon, though — that’s for sure.

Note: there is indeed an organization in Indonesia that represents members of the kratom market in the country like a union. The organization has a limited amount of private land dedicated to growing kratom trees and ultimately improving their genetics through extensive cross-pollination. I forgot the name of this entity. This place hasn’t been used as such for long enough to make a difference in the quality of such plants’ yield — while it’s nice to know if your kratom was grown on such a plot of private land used exclusively for growing the quasi-opioid drug, don’t bother paying more for such a reason, even if the vendor touting this alleged information to potential buyers can prove the statement to be true, it’s not beneficial enough to be worth its time.

No matter how you slice it, no American kratom consumers should be paying more for batches that are allegedly or assuredly — either, or — in line with such characteristics mentioned above.

Where Is Kratom Actually Grown?

So, where is kratom actually grown? The bulk of countries in Southeast Asia from which kratom is originally from have largely made Mitragyna speciosa illegal. Thailand, fortunately, has legalized kratom use for medical purposes, to be the only such country in addition to Indonesia where kratom is legal.

Due to the potential major negative outcome, there’s no reason for kratom harvesters, processors, and eventual vendors to grow kratom trees in any Southeast Asian country but Indonesia.

Although some kratom is grown on the 17,500-some islands that make up the Republic of Indonesia other than Kalimantan, most kratom that ends up in American’s hands is grown on the island of Borneo; more particularly, the portion of the large island — it’s the third-largest island in terms of surface area in all of Southeast Asia — that belongs to Indonesia.

For all practical purposes, we can assume that all kratom that ends up in the hands of regular kratom consumers across the United States comes from the island of Borneo that belongs to Indonesia — Kalimantan.

Is Any Kratom Grown Domestically in the United States?

Many kratommites — that’s an unofficial name for members of the greater kratom community — grow kratom trees here in the United States. Most of these trees are tucked away indoors and grown under powerful grow lights akin to those popular for indoor cannabis cultivation.

Keep in mind that I’ve never grown kratom. As such, since I’ve never done it, I truly don’t know much about the process as attentive kratom consumers who currently grow one or more kratom trees indoors, sometimes exposing them to the outdoors whenever it’s warm enough outside.

From anecdotal reports I’ve read online, Florida is capable of growing kratom trees outside, though the more a winter season cools off, the higher likelihood of getting damaged that applies to kratom trees, from what I’ve read. Again, I can’t personally guarantee that this information is correct — that about growing kratom, that is.

What’s the Purpose of Growing Kratom Trees If They’re Available Online for the Low Low?

Kratom is widely available across the Internet right now, almost all of which come from the Republic of Indonesia. You can find kilograms of kratom for $80 on some legitimate, reputable websites that sell batches of kratom that are up to industry standards in terms of kratom quality.

Even at prices of up to roughly $125 per kilogram, the absolute most I’d be willing to pay for kratom on the current market, why would it make sense to bother with the hassles posed by cultivating one or more kratom trees in the United States?

Indonesians obviously know far more about kratom than Americans do. After all, people in Indonesia actually see it with their own eyes, can consume fresh leaves, can pick and dry countless hundreds of pounds of kratom leaves that hail from trees on Kalimantan’s public lands, and otherwise know the ins, outs, ups, and downs of kratom at large. Since kratom is not native to the United States, we don’t know any of this stuff unless we’ve done it ourselves in Indonesia, which is highly, highly unlikely for just about anybody in the country.

Wouldn’t it be great if the average American kratom consumer actually knew a decent, respectable amount of information about all sides of the business?

It’s safe to assume that Indonesians are unwilling to give the information they’ve got regarding the inner workings of kratom on a practical level to us Americans, as they can, put simply, better take advantage of shoppers because they know less truth about kratom and are therefore able to be taken advantage of much more easily, resulting in more income for Indonesian direct vendors of kratom to American buyers.

As such, how can we stick up for American buyers of kratom and promote the gathering of legitimate field-specific information among American kratom consumers at large? Also, why should we bother with cultivating kratom here, in the United States, instead of leaving it up to Indonesians?

How Can We Answer Both of These Questions at Once?

By encouraging one another to grow kratom trees on a clandestine, grassroots, personal basis, we’ll be able to reduce our dependence on Indonesia as the source of our kratom. We’ll also benefit from not having to let our money escape from the United States’ national market of goods and services and ultimately in the hands of Indonesia’s, which is inherently detrimental to bolstering the stability of the United States economy. Also, if we grow this plant ourselves on a major scale, we’ll get taken advantage of less extensively and less frequently, ultimately resulting in our better understanding of the plant and the improved ability to take kratom and be able to derive outcomes that we desired more than others from using kratom.

There’s One More Reason to Grow Kratom Here in the United States

Not many Americans know how to speak Indonesian. As such, it is difficult for us, as a class, to understand what all Indonesian news publications actually mean — the same can be said for content on other websites.

In the past few months, I heard that the Republic of Indonesia was planning on making kratom illegal in five years. No official news has been confirmed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the government of Indonesia, but it’s been alleged by more than a couple of industry insiders that the FDA has been pushing Indonesia to ultimately make kratom illegal in the country, the source of most kratom that is sold in the U.S.

Although I talked to at least one Indonesian native who was involved in the kratom business who shared a local news source about the government’s intentions with me, because I can’t read Indonesian myself, I didn’t know what the article said. Other people have agreed that they heard that Indonesia might be stopping the sale of kratom on a federal level.

Ultimately, this would result in things like less kratom being legally available, having negative market effects like drastic price hikes on a market-wide basis. Kratom could, in such a situation, get so expensive that it wouldn’t be worth the price as compared to the utility of users’ other drugs of choice. For example, what if kratom become so expensive due to very real possibilities such as those mentioned herein that it made more sense for people using kratom as an alternative to true opioids to cease their use of kratom and return to more dangerous, illegal, more deadly batches of illicit opioids, including legitimate pharmaceuticals that have been diverted from legitimate sources for illicit sale.

If you’re able and willing to stop taking kratom at any moment — this won’t be a moment where you know ahead of time that kratom supply will be cut off; rather, you will be surprised with it — you might not actually face a real, harmful threat if kratom supply from Indonesia were to dry up due to a country-wide federal ban on kratom exporting. However, most people won’t fit this bill and will be negatively affected by an immediate dose reduction or immediate complete cessation of opioids if it were to happen to Americans.

Outside of withdrawal symptoms, let’s think about people who use it to curb their alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, or opioid consumption, as well as those who use it — both prescribed users of kratom for such a purpose under the direction of a physician, as well as those who are strictly self-medicating and skirting the recommendations made by their primary care provider or trained, certified naturopath.

People losing their substitute for such drugs would be likely to return to problem drug use, which is known to slightly increase the chance of their following drug use on causing overdose, the onset of serious and long-lasting mental health problems, and other seriously negative outcomes. Also, those who would find themselves immediately unable to find a suitable medication to treat their legitimate, diagnosed health condition’s symptoms would be likely to experience serious health outcomes in rebound, potentially worsening such situations and even causing death.

Kratom Grown In the United States Is More Likely to Be Void of Serious Contaminants

Kratom vendors that import their inventory directly from vendors in Indonesia or wherever their kratom supply might come from are likely to face contamination of their batches for several reasons.

Vendors, to both maintain a commitment to ethical values and adhere to the FDA’s requirements, should pay for sensitive, official, professional contaminant testing whereby it’s possible to determine whether certain batches of a vendor’s inventory or all of their kratom is void of contaminants or not. These results can often be posted on vendors’ official websites with an official certificate of that particular vendor’s contaminant test results as hosted on the testing lab that was chosen’s website. Consumers will ultimately feel safer if this is done, which is both a best practice for the field and required by the FDA, among other federal government agencies, as well as state-level bodies for that vendor to legally operate in the United States. The FDA’s federal-level guidelines in this capacity are known as Current Good Manufacturing Practices, or CGMP for short.

Adhering to these rules is likely to cause a reduced prevalence of kratom batches containing contaminants or otherwise containing unwanted, potentially harmful, and unknown contents.

Kratom vendors in the United States will always try to reduce the costs of resupplying their stores of inventory, one way of which is opting to receive kratom batches in separate plastic bags. One way that these first-line domestic kratom resellers improve their profits is by testing, breaking down packages of kratom in the dozens or hundreds of pounds, and repackaging them with supplies and facility features that have to adhere to all rules for food packaging regulation in the U.S.

Keep in mind, as well, that kratom has to travel anywhere from roughly 6,000 to 10,000 miles from Indonesia to ultimately arrive eat its destination here in the United States. For me, from the middle of the island of Java to Tennesse, the separation length is about 9,000 miles. It’s generally not a good idea for any product to be shipped thousands of miles, changing custody from one country’s group of government agencies to one or more different governments’ agencies of this type. One reason for this is that it’s likely to result in the contamination of clean batches of kratom with unwanted, foreign materials.

Some sources claim that at least 91 deaths across the United States have been caused either in large part or entirely by kratom, though the American Kratom Association has fought back against the Food and Drug Administration’s efforts and asserted that the government agency’s findings and assertions were entirely false.

Understanding How Likely Indonesian Entrepreneurs Are to Enter the Kratom Business Without Proper Equipment in the First Place

One thing about Indonesia is that they don’t have as much money as the United States. Gross domestic product, or GDP, in Indonesia is in 18th place among all countries on the face of planet Earth despite having the fourth greatest number of citizens. This means that Indonesians don’t have the same economic opportunities as we do here in the U.S.

One figure shows that the average post-tax earnings of an Indonesian adult are about $339 per month. Another figure indicates that the contemporary American adult’s annual earnings, after-tax, of course, is about $56,000. A typical amount of after-tax earnings pulled from a $50,000 annual salary is $39,239 on average, so we can be safe in our calculations by substantially underestimating the average take-home pay of Americans. From an annual earnings after-tax of $39,129, the average monthly income of a U.S. citizen is, according to this information, $3,261.

Whatever the particular rate of post-tax monthly earnings is, it’s clear that Americans earn boatloads more than Indonesians. Also, know that the U.S. Dollar has a favorable exchange rate when turned into Indonesian Rupiah, the country’s official fiat currency.

With all these factors being considered simultaneously, it’s easy to see why Indonesians are unable to get proper equipment in the first place or ever operate with a full, recommended family of equipment to do things the right way. Also, because it’s easy to visit public lands, either pick kratom leaves from trees by hand or rake up kratom leaves en masse from the forest floor of Kalimantan, as well as dry and process kratom, it’s easy for Indonesians to enter this market initially and start selling kratom to Americans.

Because Indonesians are incentivized, out of a sense of wanting to survive, they often engage in cutting corners.

One of the common ways that kratom is dried is outside. Kratom leaves are laid over on another out in the Sun or hung up on long strings of these alkaloid-filled leaves by tying such strings to two secure points. Vendors in Indonesia sometimes dry this kratom around their animals, such as pigs, cows, and the like, a common practice in the country, leaving feces kratom contamination that can result in countless harmful diseases with potentially lasting effects on victims — perhaps death.

All this information goes to explain how likely Indonesian vendors are to potentially contaminate what they harvest and process before sending it to end-users in the United States and, to a lesser extent, elsewhere in the world.

For these many reasons, it’s safer for kratom to be grown and processed in the United States, then sold domestically to fellow Americans from vendors based in the United States that all get their inventories of kratom from wholesalers based in the United States. In other words, it’d be highly beneficial for the U.S. to be able to welcome up kratom cultivation, harvesting, processing, and in-country vending to help our nation’s network of kratom users, though this will only be carried out through grassroots actions taken out by every single American who is interested in this push.

There’s no way the United States government is going to get involved in this effort anytime soon, after all, as the Food and Drug Administration has published many pieces of research and other forms of original media that denounce the safety and utility of kratom as opposed to true opioids and essentially say that kratom is the same thing as the many true, traditional opioids that include heroin, oxycodone, and morphine — research from non-governmental sources show kratom off in a more neutral or positive light in terms of its uses when applied in cases of opioid use disorder than in cases paid for by the U.S. government.

Indonesia Isn’t Home to Many Reputable Testers, at Least Not on the Same Level as Those in the United States

The United States is one of the most privileged countries on planet Earth. Indonesia just isn’t up to par with it in terms of providing manufacturing regulatory services such as checking if batches of kratom are free of adulterants, as well as what percentage of alkaloids in terms of total leaf weight are detected, which users can peruse to predict the likely effects of certain types of batches with proportions of alkaloids that are present in certain proportions, concentrations, and other setups.

There are many tests that can be done on small samples of kratom that are often paid for by copmanies that stand to benefit by assuring its clients t hat it regularly purchases the official test results from various forms of mitragynine confirmation checking and related tests.

From my experience dealing directly with Indonesian vendors — check out my other kratom articles for the story explaining my experience handling the U.S.-based operations of fan Indonesian vendor’s business for several months, including getting fronted a few hundred pounds of kratom each month and not having to pay for anything upfront, and so on — I’ve learned that entities that offer lab testing services for things like whether kratom has adulterants or major, highly harmful contaminants can easily be paid off.

For the equivalent of $30, as I was told from one of the two founders of the Indo kratom outfit I worked with, Indonesian labs would readily stamp whatever results you wanted on your confirmation certification regardless of the actual, true results of the testing of your batch of kratom.

In the United States, such an outcome can very, very rarely be paid for through bribing a lab and its workers directly, as doing so will typically end up in the lab disqualifying and potentially reporting the unethical rule-breaker of a customer, which can result in major negative press for companies that are found guilty of engaging in this activity. This just doesn’t happen in Indonesia.

Also, the FDA will not accept testing results from labs in any other country but the United States. For example, it’s useless for my old Indonesian vendor to send me kratom that he’s already paid to get tested by a domestic lab, even if they haven’t been bribed by the vendor because the federal United States agency will not accept the results of the unregulated, foreign lab.

How Do Interested Kratom Tree Growers Find Trees and Take Care of Them?

Again, as I’ve said at least a couple of times by now, I am not experienced in growing kratom trees. I want to start doing it soon, but just wanting to isn’t a replacement for built-up experience in this area — the only way to get there is to do it.

Kratom trees are available online from dozens of independent domestic vendors that sell clippings of their current living kratom trees, most of which are grown indoors. People usually charge anywhere from $30 to $50 for a kratom tree clipping — it is relatively easy to grow and doesn’t require an expert gardener — that comes off of their current kratom tree just before they ship it to customers.

Make sure to exercise discretion in choosing vendors of kratom tree clippings before sending any money to them. It’s easy to get scammed when doing business with independents for a number of reasons — just be careful at first!

By the way, I’ve heard at least two anecdotal reports that when raw, fresh kratom is chewed, they cause different effects than their traditional dried and powdered counterparts. There’s yet another good reason to welcome the responsibility of growing a kratom tree in your home or somewhere else that offers a suitable environment to grow it indoors.

What Else Do We Need to Know About Kratom?

We need to start growing kratom as Americans, as we produce absolutely no kratom on a commercial level to help satisfy the world-leading demands of American kratom consumers. If we don’t, there are many negative outcomes — there are plenty of others outside of those mentioned above — that could result from a major slowdown in the provision of processed kratom from Indonesia, which may eventually take place due to the United States FDA whispering into its ear.

One of the best things about even growing just one kratom tree is that we help the English-speaking world better understand how to properly grow kratom, process the leaves, know when leaves are most potent in terms of alkaloid content, and what are the most common recipes for the American market’s most sought-after variety of dried, raw, powdered kratom.

If you do decide to have fun with this and plan on providing your insights to the Internet, make sure not to forget following up with your discoveries on a popular, relevant Internet forum directly related to drugs, such as reddit.com/r/Opiates, reddit.com/r/Kratom, or bluelight.org, just to name a few.

By Daniel Garrett

I'm a self-employed writer, long-term drug user, and resident of rural Tennessee. Find me on Twitter at @DanielGarrettHR or email me at danpgarr@ut.utm.edu.

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