19 July, 2015
Very dry weather is limiting the growing season of Thailand's rice crop. Thai farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect rice – one of the country's major exports.
Across Thailand, many farmers are growing worried as they wait for the rainy season.
"This is the worst drought ever," says this rice farmer.
To protect water supplies, the government has reduced the flow of water from reservoirs. The reduction has changed the look of many rice fields. Irrigation ditches are now filled with wet soil or mud. They normally are full with water for crops.
Anant Seechanpang is a rice farmer. He is hoping for a more permanent solution to the problem.
He says, "We need help building a dam or a reservoir to keep water for us to use for planting rice while we wait for the rain to come -- to hold the water for a month or so before the rainy season starts."
Some farmers are now digging for groundwater. But this activity might put aquifers at risk. Last year, officials warned that some underground water supplies would run dry. But many farmers were unprepared.
Some agricultural experts say Thai farmers need help learning new ways to deal with having less water.
The expert says "The farmers don't have enough knowledge to deal with the drought. They've told me they need help from the government to send them to study in similar countries on rice production to learn how to cope and handle the problem."
Thailand is one of the biggest rice producers in the world. For now, Thai officials are predicting a 43 percent drop in off-season rice production. That would be the lowest amount in 15 years.
For many people, the lack of rainfall only worries them more and more. The country's military rulers already cancelled a rice-buying program that cost the government billions of dollars.
But officials say the current crisis is a top concern. They hold emergency meetings to discuss water restrictions.
A government irrigation officer told VOA, "We've had to ask the farmers to slow down on the rice planting. We have asked them to postpone their planting just to prevent them fighting over the water."
Many Thais hope that the sharp drop in rice production is a rarity.
I'm Jim Tedder.
Steve Sandford reported on this story from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Triwik Kurniasari adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
drought – n. a period during which there is very little or no rainfall
reservoirs – n. places that store water
irrigation – n. artificial or man-made methods to grow plants
aquifer – n. underground rock that can hold water
cope – v. to deal with a problem