Global warming causing low rice yields

Dec 18, 2009 (DVB), Rice production in Burma, once coined the 'rice bowl of Asia', is falling due to increasingly irregular weather patterns that result from global warming, a Burmese farmer has warned.

He added that the once abundant fish supply in Burma's southern coastal region was also diminishing as global sea temperatures rise.

"The rice yield is reduced and some paddy fields have been destroyed," said the farmer, from Bogalay in Irrawaddy division. "Rice plants grow but they don't yield crops because the rainy season is finishing early."

A resident of Sittwe, in Burma's western Arakan state, corroborated the reports of changing weather patterns: "It rains in the cold season, it rains in summer and it rains in rainy season," he said.

Around 60 percent of families in the Irrawaddy delta area rely on farming as a primary source of income. The delta is yet to recover from cyclone Nargis last May, which destroyed around 800,000 hectares of farmland.

Up until the 1960s, Burma led the international rice market but the industry collapsed after the establishment of military rule in 1962.

This diminished the output of rice from an estimated two million tonnes per year in the 1930's to 0.03 million tonnes in 2005, according to the Washington-based Progressive Policy Institute.

A Global Climate Risk Index released earlier this month by climate group Germanwatch ranked Burma as second worst-hit country in world by severe weather events between 1990 and 2008, due largely to cyclone Nargis.

Despite pledges by the military government to improve weather forecasts and warning systems in the country, a resident in Laputa, one of the towns worst affected by the cyclone, said that people still have to depend on nature to predict weather patterns.

"When crabs climb to high grounds, it's important [a forewarning of flooding]; when seagulls enter the inner river it will be stormy," he said. "We know about this kind of thing and pass the knowledge on."

Reporting by Yee May Aung

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