Farmers struggle with lack of resources

Jul 30, 2008 (DVB), Farmers in the cyclone-hit township of Labutta in Irrawaddy division are still struggling to resume their work due to lack of resources, financial difficulties and crop failures.

According to some estimates, there is a possibility that only a quarter of the 1.4 million acres of farmland in Irrawaddy will be producing crops this year.

Problems have included the death of cows and buffalo used in cultivating land, the failure of some crops and farmers' inexperience in using tillers, as well as the limited agricultural loans given by the government and shortage of diesel fuel.

The government provided some fertiliser to the farmers at 25,000 kyat a bag, but they found they still needed to buy more so had to borrow money from loan-sharks to buy it on the black market for 48,000 kyat a bag.

The farmers are also struggling to use tillers provided by the government and complained that workshops run by the state agricultural department teaching them how to operate the machines had been inadequate.

They have also complained that the tillers, which were manufactured by a Chinese company and assembled in Mandalay’s Kyauk Se township, broke down shortly after being put to work in the fields.

The farmers claimed the pinions on the tillers broke too easily and said that tillers imported from Thailand would have been more appropriate for their land.

Only a quarter of farmers working in Irrawaddy division own their own land, while the rest are hired hands who work for the farm owners in return for wages and food, but farm owners have been struggling to provide food for these workers, farmers said.

There have also been complaints that the government agricultural loans have stayed at the previous limit of 8000 kyat per acre of farmland up to a maximum of 60,000 kyat per farmer, which farmers say does not meet their current needs.

Crops have also been damaged by crabs brought in by the cyclone, which have been attacking the plants.

The farmers have now called on the government to provide heavy machinery to assist the community as it has done in other village groups.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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