Rice farmers defy order to delay planting main crop

Rice farmers defy order to delay planting main crop

Despite the government's call for another delay, farmers are determined to take their chances, arguing that planting was already postponed once early this year due to water shortages. (Photo by Chudate Seehawong)
Despite the government's call for another delay, farmers are determined to take their chances, arguing that planting was already postponed once early this year due to water shortages. (Photo by Chudate Seehawong)

A leader of central plain rice growers said on Tuesday that most farmers would defy the government's instruction they delay planting their main crop, because further delay means they will have no harvest at all.

Khwanchai Mahachuenjai, deputy head of the Farmers Network of the Central Region, said few growers would follow the Royal Irrigation Department's instruction that they postpone planting their main rice crop until July.

He said the government had previously told them to delay planting this year, citing a water shortage.

"This time farmers will go ahead, whether they must find water themselves or just hope for rain.

"They will take their chances. If they do not, then they will have no income this year because later this year water coming downstream from the North will inundate their paddy fields and rice cannot grow then," Mr Khwanchai said.

Wichien Phuanglamjiak, president of the Thai Agriculturist Association, said on Tuesday that the government had twice cited water shortages in telling farmers to delay planting, and that was the worst possible situation for farmers.

He also said they could not grow late rice because water from the North would be flooding their fields.

He demanded the government give rice growers assistance of 3,000 baht per rai in compensation for their delay in planting because of the water shortage. The payment should be limited to 30 rai of paddy fields per farmer, he said.

There should also be a three-year interest-free debt moratorium for rice growers.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Pitipong Phuengboon Na Ayudhaya said earlier that there was only enough water in the reservoirs to irrigate the 3.4 million rai of paddy fields already planted in the main rice bowl area.

Farmers holding another 4 million rai of rice fields spread over 22 provinces must delay planting until normal levels of rainfall return, expected around late July.

The ministry will ask for troops to protect sluice gates to prevent fighting over the scarce water available  for crops.

Authorities have warned that unless these rice growers cooperate and delay planting, then all rice crops,  both newly and previously sown fields, will become parched and fighting over water may be inevitable.


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