Farmers face harder time to grow first rice crop

The severe drought that is afflicting the country is at the moment approaching crisis levels for rice farmers in the Chao Phraya river basin and along the irrigation canals as the Irrigation Department is unable to provide adequate irrigation for in-season rice crops that have already been seeded.

Many farmers have resorted to digging artesian wells in order to water their crops while their representatives are asking the government to consider their livelihood which has been affected by the recent announcement forbidding the planting of off-season or 2nd crop in order to save water.

Again they were asked to delay rice growing for a month.

But some farmers are not aware that the Irrigation Department has ordered that the planting of in-season rice crops be delayed until the end of July.

Many who are already aware have chosen to ignore the order and have already seeded their fields because if they were to wait until the end of July, the crops will have aged completely before the arrival of the rains.

As a result when the rains arrive much of the crops will be damaged resulting in even more loss on top of the losses they have already suffered over the government’s order forbidding planting of off-season or second  rice crops.

A farmer representative Thawatchai Eamjit, the chairman of the Baan Dakkanon Village Rice Breed Learning Center said the call to delay rice planting would only add more hardship to farmers.

He said rice farmers have had no earnings for 7 – 8 months already.

On top of that, it is now the new school semester and their children’s school fees will have to be paid.

“What is even worse are families with children who are now in universities and colleges where the new semester opens in July and August. These farmers already have expenses awaiting them! You must remember that in rice farming you don’t plant today and sell off the harvest tomorrow. Rice farmers must wait at least 3 – 4 months before they can sell their crops. Because of the prohibition on planting off-season crops, their income has already been severely reduced and now unbelievably, they are asking them to delay planting! I don’t know how they will cope!” he said.

He said many times in the past, farmers have had to forestall planting rice in order to conserve water for the sake of necessary consumption of residents in Bangkok and sadly it is the same this year as well.

“They have never complained but does anyone considered their plight or recognize their sacrifice. We must remember that for farmers growing crops is not only a means of making a living but is also an important way of life for them,” he added.

One farmer in Chai Nat has already seeded his plot of 30 of rai rice field  for two months.

But his rice field is so far away from the main irrigation canal that no water has reached it.

So he has been forced to dig in order to get to the subterranean water.

In order to do this he has had to take out an unofficial loan of 60,000 baht in order to pay for the actual digging as well as other expenditures such as seeds, fertilizers as well as fuel to power the pumps that will pump water to the fields.

He said if the rains are late and no water is released into the irrigation canals then he could be paying as much as 20,000 in fuel bills alone.

Considering that his crop of Kor Khor 31 rice only sells for between 5,000 – 6,000 baht per ton, then all he realistically hope for is to break even.

Another farmer Mrs Lek Wattadham in Thammanoon sub-district rice of Chai Nat province said  she has been working in her  field from when she was a young girl helping her parents up to the present.

She is now 70 years old and admits to having no savings whatsoever and is deep in debt.

She currently owes 100,000 baht to the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives because last season almost all of her rice crops were eaten by rats and she could not sell any rice.

She admits that this year she has been forced to take out unofficial or unregulated loans in order to plant this year’s rice crop but if it should fail then she would have no choice but to sell of her property.

She stated that she did not want to do so as the field has been in her family’s possession for generations and her parents had told her to look after the plot before they died.

“I have been growing rice for a very long time and before she died my mother told me not to sell the land. But if I have no choice then I will be forced divide the land up and sell them off in 2 – 3 rai plots because if the banks seizes the property I will have nothing. One of my relatives owed 370,000 Baht and had her 3 rai  plot seized and now she has no house to live in.”

(Photo : Thai PBS File)