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Monday, December 21, 2015

Crops badly affected by floods

Darren Chin

FARMERS at the Wasan rice plantation fields are facing a poor harvest yield this quarter after floods damaged their latest batch of rice crops.

The heavy downpour on Saturday night caused flooding in low-lying areas where the Wasan rice plantation fields are located.

Rice farmers blamed the poor flow of the river irrigating the fields as the cause of flooding.

“The river is usually dirty, with rubbish and tall weeds obstructing the river flow,” said a rice farmer at Wasan who declined to be named.

“Furthermore, the drainage under the bridges built over the river are just too small and narrow compared to the width of the river, causing the water to bottleneck which subsequently causes the river to burst its banks during heavy rainfall,” he said.

However, the Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism cited the unusual weather patterns as the instigator of the natural disaster.

“The flooding happened due to extraordinarily heavy rainfall caused by the current weather system that is affecting the whole region,” said Hj Khairuddin Hj Abd Hamid.

“The Brunei Darussalam Meteorological Department has already issued several advisories for low-lying areas where rice plantations are located beforehand,” he said.

He also assured farmers that the case is being handled by the authorities and urged the affected parties to be patient while reminding that the flooding has consequences not just for the agricultural sectors but also affects the public such as public roads and houses.

“The Department of Agriculture and Agrofood (DAA) will continue to monitor the situation and will continue to work with the Department of Drainage and Sewerage at the Public Works Department to address the problem,” he said.

Speaking to The Brunei Times, another farmer who also did not wished to be identified said that their woes started three days ago when the fields were flooded after heavy rainfall during Friday night.

“It was already flooded by Saturday morning but we were hoping that it would drain out by today (Sunday) but Saturday night’s rain just made the flooding even worse and there is no way it will drain out by Monday now,” he said.

“The water levels in the field are now chest-deep, completely covering all the plants except the top of the mature plants which were a couple of weeks away from harvest,” he said.

He also explained that based on his experience, the rice plants in the flooded fields are as good as gone.

“It takes about 90 days for the seedlings to grow big enough for harvest but if the stalk of the rice plants are submerged in water for three days or more, especially the ones still at the early stages of growth, it will cause the rice plant to die,” he explained.

“The rice plants you can see now are actually about more than four feet high but all you can see is the top of the plants of which about one foot is visible – plants which are quite near harvest time,” he said.

He further explained that now they will be under pressure to meet the production quotas set by the Department of Agriculture and Agrofood now that the crops are damaged.

“We could probably still harvest the rice which were a couple of weeks away from harvest and would be edible but it will not be in saleable condition as the quality won’t be acceptable by the Department nor the consumers,” he said.

Farmers for now are bracing themselves for the financial losses for the current batch of damaged crops.

According to another farmer, who wished to be known only as Hj Nizam, whose rice plantations were affected by the floods, his lot of rice plantation could have produced more than three tons of rice valued at $4,800.

“Furthermore, for each lot that could have produced three tons of Laila rice if the flood had not occurred, we are facing losses between $2,000 to $3,000 in the capital that was put into planting the rice,” he said.

“That’s just the expenses that had to be paid before harvest. We also have to make post-harvest payments such as the installments for the subsidised machinery and other farm equipments provided by the government,” he said.

When asked whether farmers would be compensated for the losses due to the natural disaster, the Deputy Permanent Secretary stated that it was unlikely.

“Compensations are seldom made for damage to personal properties like rice plantations in general due to naturally-occuring incidents such as flooding,” he stated.

“However, the DAA will nevertheless help the farmers start the next season of rice planting with technical assistance once the conditions permit them to do so,” he said.

Sumber - The Brunei Times

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