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Floods drown Asia’s rice bowl

10-11-2011 09:34 BJT

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Floods drown Asia’s rice bowl
 
Massive floods have ravaged vast swathes of Asia’s rice bowl, threatening to further drive up food prices and adding to the burden of farmers who are among the region’s poorest, experts say.

A farmer showing a damaged sheaf of rice at his flooded rice field in Vinh Dien commune,
Vietnam. Photo: VNA/AFP

About 1.5 million hectares of paddy fields in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos have been damaged or are at risk from the worst floods to hit the region in years, officials say.

In Thailand, the world’s biggest rice exporter, where 237 people have died in the floods, about one million hectares of paddy – roughly 10 per cent of the total – have been damaged, they say.

Heavy rains in Laos and Cambodia have also led to big losses in recent weeks and experts say flood waters have now drained into Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, a key global rice producer, making it the latest to be inundated.

Further west, flooding of rice and other farmland in Pakistan’s arable belt has cost that country nearly $2 billion in losses.

“The whole region will now suffer from rising food prices as potential harvests have now been devastated. The damage is very serious this year and it will be some time before people can resume normal lives,” Margareta Wahlstrom, the UN chief of disaster reduction, said in a statement.

The flood damage comes on top of worries about the impact on global rice prices of a new scheme by the Thai government to boost the minimum price farmers receive for their crop.

Vietnam meanwhile is the world’s number-two rice exporter and the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam accounts for half the country’s production.

“The upstream waters have begun to drop slightly but here they are rising three to five centimetres daily,” said Duong Nghia Quoc, director of the agriculture department in Dong Thap province.

“Agricultural production is seriously affected this year by the floods that were, in fact, worse than our forecasts,” said Vuong Huu Tien, of the flood and storm control department in An Giang, where thousands of soldiers have been mobilised to reinforce dykes and help residents reach safer ground.

In Cambodia, more than 330,000 hectares of rice paddy have been inundated, of which more than 100,000 hectares are completely destroyed, said a senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture.

Editor:James |Source: CNTV

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