BANGKOK – Thailand’s Office of Agricultural Economics say’s the Nation is experiencing the worst drought in decades, with seven out of 67 provinces affected and water rationing taking place in almost a third of the country.
Thailand’s Irrigation Department said that the amount of usable water in dams across the country, except in the West, have dwindled to below 10 percent and in the capital Bangkok tap water production has been slowing down since May, reports the Associated Press.
Meanwhile the drought is taking its toll on the country’s farmers.
Rice farmers usually plant their paddy in June or July but because of critical water shortages, the Agriculture Ministry has asked farmers to delay planting their crop until August.
According to the Office of Agricultural Economics, the delay could cost farmers in Thailand’s central plains 60 billion baht ($1.8 billion) in losses and straddle them with significant debt.
“My entire investment for this crop could be gone with the wind,” 66-year-old rice farmer Boontham Cei-pa told Bloomberg. “I’m stressed out and don’t know what to do.”
Thailand is one of the world’s top producers of rice, exporting more than 10 million tons annually. As a result of the drought, the Thai government has lowered its forecast rice exports for this year by 2 million tons.
Fearing the drought could mean a rise in rice prices, African countries have increased their imports, the Nation reports.
“The African market remains an important market for Thailand especially rice and parboiled rice,” Chukiat Opaswong, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association.
In an effort to support farmers affected by drought, Thailand’s Finance Ministry Monday approved loans of up to 60 billion baht ($1.77 billion) for emergency funds and long-term assistance to increase farm productivity.