Dry Season Rice Plan Under Consideration

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The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is considering whether the figure for this year’s dry season rice plan should be revised downwards or remain stable after the last four harvests failed to reach the target.

Last dry season, farmers planted only about 99,000 hectares or 88 percent of the area targeted, which represented a reduction of 2,210 hectares on the previous crop.

The figures were reported to the National Assembly meeting last month by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

The major factors influencing the decline in dry season rice plantings included the fact that large numbers of rice farmers, especially those in the northern parts, shifted to growing commercial small crops such as beans, sweetcorn, melons, pumpkins, chilies, eggplants and sweet potatoes.

Those farmers reported that their reasons for shifting included lower capital costs as well as better financial returns on their labour.

The crops also require less water to supply production and produce three or four times a year.

Cold weather and lack of water from irrigation systems are important issues affecting dry season rice production, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Meanwhile another factor is the lack of labour to produce the crop as members of their family have shifted to other forms of employment in the towns.

Next fiscal year, the ministry plans to encourage farmers around the country to produce a total of 4.3 million tonnes of rice.

Officials are confident the target can be reached after farmers achieved 98 percent of the planned 4.2 million tonnes this year.

Irrigation systems were able to guarantee a supply of water to about 180,000 hectares of crops this dry season, even though some systems are in need of repair.

About 120,000 hectares of the irrigated land will be given over to rice, while other crops will be cultivated on the remainder, according to the Irrigation Department.

The country currently has over 11,600 irrigation projects, most of which supply water to the central and southern provinces.

To supply sufficient water in this dry season, the Department of Irrigation is working with relevant sectors around the country as it plans to rehabilitate damaged or degraded irrigation systems.

The department also advised local authorities and farmers to use water from reservoirs, rivers and other ponds by utilising pump machines when necessary.

To increase productivity, agricultural authorities urged farmers to use modern technology and good seed varieties.

For planting other crops this dry season, the ministry focused on various staples, especially sweet corn, potatoes, fruits and vegetables.

Source: Vientiane Times

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