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May 19, 2008 (DVB), The destruction of around 650,000 acres of farmland in Rangoon and Irrawaddy divisions by Cyclone Nargis has left farmers in need of urgent assistance, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Some 20 percent of the rice fields were damaged in the five cyclone-devastated regions.
Financial assistance, agricultural tools and other resources are urgently needed to enable farmers to start working on the land as soon as possible, as the planting season has already started.
If the assistance is not forthcoming, the FAO said they are bound to face rice shortages.
In the highest yielding rice producing region, Irrawaddy division, farmers are facing severe difficulties because many acres of farmland were destroyed and over 200,000 draft animals were killed by the cyclone.
U Ohn Kyaing of Moulmeingyun, who recently visited the affected areas, said floods had covered half of the farmland in Bogalay and Moulmeingyun townships, two key agricultural areas.
"All of the stockpiled seed grains, rice for consumption, and rice stored and ready for sale were destroyed. I have witnessed it," Ohn Kyaing said.
"More than half of the arable land was destroyed by the cyclone."
Ohn Kyaing said it would be difficult for farmers to get back to normal.
"Moulmeingyun, Bogale, Pyapon, Dadaye, and Kyaiklat, which were devastated by the cyclone, were the main regions producing most of the marine and agricultural products for Burma," Ohn Kyaing said.
"Farmers in these regions no longer have their farming implements, seed grains, or draft animals and many of them have witnessed the tragic loss of their family members," he said.
People's parliament representative U Min Swe, who returned from Pyapon Township yesterday, said farming and fisheries had been badly affected by the cyclone.
"The farmers have lost all their draft animals. Rice stored in the silos was blown away into the water when the cyclone tore the roofs open. The grains are no longer usable," he said.
"People working in the fisheries industry have lost all their infrastructure. [In] Myitdan, a place which is about one mile away from Pyapon, some of their boats sank and some are still lost."
Another people's parliament representative, U Kyi Win, said hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in the high rice yielding Labutta region had been destroyed by the surging sea water.
"Labutta has more than 366,000 acres of farmland to grow monsoon rice, and about 20,000 acres are used for growing summer rice," Kyi Win said.
"The arable land near the sea is known as forest farms and they are very fertile, producing about 50 to 60 baskets of paddy per acre," he said.
"All the land there is now under sea water and the farms have all been destroyed."
Kyi Win said the farming communities had been left with nothing.
"There aren't farmers left either , all of them were killed in the cyclone. How are they going to divvy up the land?" Kyi Win asked.
"There are no villages left, no rice stored for consumption, no seed grains, and no draft animals," he said.
"Labutta, Bogale, Pyapon, and Moulmeingyun have always been the state's top designated rice-producing areas since the time of the Burma Socialist Programme Party. These areas have now been destroyed."
Kyi Win compared the situation to the 1966 rice shortages in Sittwe, Arakan state, due to the flooding of rice farms in Irrawaddy division.
"The floods then were not as bad as now and no one was killed, only the farmland was inundated," Kyi Win said.
"The flooding then only affected about six places in Irrawaddy Division, including Bogalay, Moulmeingyun, and Pyapon," he said.
"Even then, the country was hit by a rice crisis in 1966. I cannot even imagine the extent of rice shortage that is about to happen now."
Kyi Win said it was important that the government accept outside help to reclaim and cultivate rice on the flooded lands in order to avert a crisis.
"Relief and rehabilitation must be carried out extensively with close cooperation between the national forces and government and the international community," he said.
"A national crisis cannot be handled alone. We can no longer afford to be divided."
Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet