Chiangrai Times – Thai farmers urged to grow rice earlier than usual to avoid damage by flooding. An agriculture expert has urged Rice farmers in Thailand to cultivate Rice far ahead of Monsoon season to prevent enormous damage to their crops due to perennial flooding.
Charuek Singhapreecha, head of the Office of Agricultural Economics’s Foresight Center, said that the government should convince rice farmers in a dozen provinces of the central and lower northern regions of Thailand to plant their regular crop of rice before May so that they can harvest before September or October which is usually the height of tropical Monsoon season each year.
Thailand is the world’s largest Rice exporter.
In such Rice-growing provinces as Chainat, Singhaburi, Ayudhya, Supanburi, Nakorn Sawan, Pijit, Sukothai and Pitsanuloak, the regular planting of rice usually starts in May and harvested by mid-September until mid-October, the period when severe flooding usually occur in rice fields damaging millions of dollars worth of crops.
The excessive water from excessive rainfall usually flows from rivers in the north to the Rice paddies in low-lying areas.
Last year, vast areas of farmlands in the central and the lower northern regions in Thailand were hit by severe flooding in October and November last year.
“Besides, the government should seek ways and means to develop the rice genus which will be stronger and more resistant to excessive water so that rice crops can still be harvested even when the paddies are flooded. Volume of this year’s regular crop is believed to drop due to the flooding of over 160,000 acres of farmland in those provinces,” Charuek said.
Charuek added that the authorities should see to it that the farmers will be alerted and well-prepared in the event of flooding, adding that levees and water gates along rivers and canals should be regularly fixed and fortified to better contain excessive waters flowing from rivers upstream.
According to the Office of Agricultural Economics’ Foresight Center, an estimated 210,000 tons of rice grown in 160,000 acres are believed to be destroyed by flooding each year, incurring a loss of about US$73-M.
About 9.5% of the 5.7-M acres of farmland in 14 central and lower northern provinces is believed to be affected by current rainstorms and flooding, especially on both sides of Chao Phraya, Thailand’s largest river, which runs through the heart of the central region.
Meanwhile, Somporn Isavilanond of the Knowledge Network Institute of Thailand has opposed the government’s rice pledging scheme which had arbitrarily raised the price of rice to US$500 per ton because, he said, it will only curtail the Thai rice’s competitive edge against the Indian and Vietnamese rice in the world market.
Somnporn said that under the scheme Thailand could incur a considerable loss in international dealings, including those on government-to-government basis.
While most of the rice under the nationwide pledging project is of low quality for export to African and ASEAN countries such as Nigeria, Indonesia and the Philippines, Somborn said the volume of the high-quality rice such as the Hom Mali jasmine rice for export to China and the Middle East should be increased
The academic remarked that the Thai rice should sell no less than US$550 a ton against an average of US$522 a ton in the world market so the rice pledging project will be considered “successful and profitable as a whole”.
Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapiromya recently announced that the Thai Rice will sell for no less than US$600 per ton in the world market, compared to only about US$400 a ton for the Indian and Vietnamese Rice.
Boonsong said that Thailand will remain as the world’s #1 rice exporter with no less than 8.5-M tons of Rice to be exported throughout this year. That compares to India’s speculated 8-M tons and Vietnam’s 7-M tons, he said.
According to Boonsong, Thailand will make an estimated US$8.6-B in earnings from its sale of rice in the international market as against the US$9.3-B in expenditures under a Rice subsidy scheme that is primarily designed to help some 8-M Rice farmers throughout the country.
Deputy Commerce Minister Poom Sarapon added that the Rice pledging project will directly elevate the income and well-being of the farmers, who are viewed as the economic backbone of the country. Poom said he considered the US$500 per ton buying price as “fairly reasonable” to the rice farmers.
“Don’t get overly preoccupied with numerals in Rice dealings or export volumes. The Rice pledging scheme was basically meant to help the farmers in the first place,” he commented.
Kobsook Iamsuree, head of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, doubted that the government’s Rice export target for this year will reach 9.5-M tons as earlier speculated or no less than 8.5-M tons as recently anticipated by the commerce minister. She said 3.4-M tons of Rice had already been sold to foreign countries and that there would be no more than 3.1-M tons left to export for the rest of the year.
Though such natural disasters as severe flooding might not do so much devastation to the Rice as last year, Kobsook added, this year’s export volume will incur a 39% drop from last year’s 10.6-M tons.
The Thai rice will likely make reduced earnings due to the fact that the Indian and Vietnamese rice are undercutting the world market prices, she said.