Floods drown Asia’s rice bowl | Pakistan Today

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. 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.
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 United Nations chief of disaster reduction, said in a statement. Cambodian rice farmer Nou Nem, 30, standing waist-deep in water in his rice field at Pea Reang east of Phnom Penh, said the water has “destroyed everything”.
“I’m worried we might not have enough rice to eat this year and next year,” he told AFP. In Thailand, the world’s biggest rice exporter, where 244 people have died in the floods, about one million hectares of paddy – roughly 10 percent of the total – have been damaged, officials say.
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. Vietnamese officials say 11 people have died, about 27,000 homes are flooded and nearly 6,000 hectares of rice have been lost.
Officials earlier said 99,000 hectares were “at risk” in Vietnam.
“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. Cambodia, where more than 160 people have been killed in the floods, exports only a fraction of total rice production but the crop accounts for about 7.5 percent of gross domestic product. Laos, one of Asia’s poorest nations, has also suffered, according to reports in state-controlled media there.
Tropical storms which struck since June killed at least 23 people in the country and damaged more than 60,000 hectares of paddy, the reports said. In late September more crops suffered after a dam on a tributary of the Mekong released water to lower its rain-swollen levels, the Vientiane Times reported. Vietnam News, the communist state’s official English-language daily, reported that the lost rice crop in Dong Thap province alone was worth $2.7 million.



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