Malaysia: Rice bogged in by soft soil

LO TERN CHERN The Star 13 Jan 16;

NIBONG TEBAL: Padi farmers here are facing difficulty in harvesting their crop after water inundated their fields due to heavy rain over the past few days.

The padi in Sungai Acheh was ready to be harvested but farmers cannot reach the crop as their machines get bogged down in the soggy soil.

Sungai Star Besar area farmer unit chief Ismail Din, 64, said farmers were losing money as the clock ticked and many of them had to hire extra labour to manually harvest the crop, which was costly and time consuming.

“Now, a bag of padi seeds costs about RM20, and four bags are required to plant a square plot. In total, it will cost about RM1,500 to operate a plot from seeding to harvest.”

Another farmer, Suhaimi Mat Esa, 47, said he did not finish harvesting his padi crop, which was supposed to be done by mid-December last year.

“The harvesting has been badly delayed due to the rain and the padi plots are now overgrown. Most of the rice is now too dry and it will cause the rice inside the husk to crack and break easily.

“The plants are now mature and tall but the soil is still soggy and this has caused the plants to topple easily.

“When it topples, the rice at the end of it gets submerged in water,” he said yesterday.

Suhaimi said if the quality of the padi dropped further, he could end up selling it as cheap animal feed.

“I produced about four tonnes of rice last season, in June last year, but this time I’ll be lucky to get 500kg. This season’s harvest is the worst in my 20 years as a farmer.

“My rice harvester became stuck in about 0.6m of mud and I was only able to free it on Sunday with help from other farmers,” he added.

Sungai Acheh assemblyman Datuk Mahmud Zakaria said according to a report by the Integrated Agricultural Develop­ment Area, 193 padi farmers in the area were affected by the soggy soil.

“The affected areas are in Jalan Baru, Sungai Air Hitam, Batu 3, Sungai Tongkang and Sungai Udang with a total land size of 621.4ha or 32% of padi fields in South Seberang Prai.

“The estimated loss is about RM1.27mil from 1,060 tonnes of padi. For now, the short-term solution will be to dig a temporary irrigation ditch for the water to flow out,” he said.

Consumers Association of Penang research officer N.V. Subbarow hoped that the farmers would be compensated for their loss.

“The Agriculture Ministry can also provide incentives or prioritise aid for these farmers while they regrow their padi crop.”

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