Floods and insects destroy farmland

Hundreds of acres of farmland in western Bago division ready for harvesting have been flooded and crops destroyed.

A farmer in Daik Oo township said that the flooding began on 8 October and affected hundreds of acres of paddy fields only weeks prior to them being harvested. He said the quality of rice would likely be low as a result.

The flooding coincides with widespread infestation of farmland in Rangoon division. Farmers in Thanlyin, Thongwa and Kayan townships said that insects had been destroying rice fields more aggressively than in previous years.

“This warm and humid weather is ideal for the insects for infestation,” said one farmer. “They do a lot of damage with heavy rain as well – the rice plants just withered and drifted away in the water.”

He added that the cost for farmers to recover from the destruction would be significant, while some farms that had not taken steps to prevent the infestation “are finished”.

Burma was once the world’s biggest producer of rice, but decades of military rule have reduced its output from a peak of 3.4 million tonnes in 1934 to only 250,000 tonnes in the first six months of this year. Around 1.75 million hectares, or 30 percent of the country’s wet season rice area, was destroyed by cyclone Nargis in May 2008.

Floodwaters meanwhile remain high in Mandalay’s Chanmyatharsi township, which was hit by heavy rain on 8 October. Four wards in the township – Myayinandar, Aungpinlae, Htonton and Kantharyar – are still submerged.

“The water is knee-deep in Manawhari road in [Chanmyatharsi township] and [more than five feet] in 55th and 56th streets. Apparently, the mountain water is still coming down,” said a Chanmyatharsi resident.

He said that flood victims were given shelter in nearby monasteries and schools and had been receiving food hand-outs from civil society groups, local business groups and Buddhist monks.

Burmese newspapers on Saturday reported that Mandalay rainfall level has hit a new record. The worst hit was in Patheingyi town in Mandalay division, where 11 inches fell. Nearby Ohnchaw village is still underwater, the Mandalay resident added.

Meteorological expert Htun Lwin said the heavy rain was caused by a small storm that had formed in the Bay of Bengal.

Additional reporting by Maung Too

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