Off-season rice crop in 22 provinces threatened by drought

National News 13 January 2020

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalermchai Sri-on has expressed concern that rice farmers in 22 provinces around Chao Phraya River basin might not have enough water for off-season rice paddy of over 2.25 million rai that they already started growing.

“The Agriculture Ministry had previously advised them against off-season farming as the Royal Irrigation Department had reported that they could not provide adequate water due to the severe drought,” he said. “I suggested to farmers to switch from rice to crops that require less water, or else they risk facing a water shortage crisis even for daily consumption that might require buying water from external sources.”

The Office of Agricultural Economics (OAE) estimated that 800,000 rai of off-season rice paddy fields could be damaged from the drought. “The damage was estimated at Bt4.1 billion while the total product cost of off-season rice is around Bt5.5 billion,” said Rapheephat Chansriwong, the OAE secretary-general. “We, therefore, have ordered all related agencies to promote the farming of crops other than rice to prevent further possible damage.”

According to Rapheephat, the Chao Phraya River basin has 7.89 million rai of available farmlands. “Currently 2.25 million rai were already used for off-season rice, which means we have 5.64 million rai left for other crops,” he said. “The recommended choice is corn for animal feeds, which total over 3.41 million rai are suitable for growing.”

The secretary-general further explained that last year corn for animal feed had generated significant profits to farmers since they require less water than rice and are still in high demand in the domestic market.

“The cost of corn production is Bt4,370 per tonne, but they can be sold at Bt7,810 per tonne,” he added. “Furthermore, the left over areas of 2.23 million rai could be used for growing mung beans and peanuts, as both required less water and have high domestic demand.”

The Agriculture Ministry has also ordered the Royal Irrigation Department to hire local workers to dig canals and construct additional reservoirs in areas that are estimated to be affected by drought. “This project aims to provide additional income to farmers whose crops are damaged, as well as reserve water for agriculture later this year,” added Rapheephat.

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