Of the 144,323 acres which were sown in Region Two, approximately 122,000 acres were expected to be harvested. By the end of March, some 119,834 acres (75%) are expected to have been harvested giving a production equivalent of 130,021 mts of rice. The late harvested crop will be seriously affected by water shortages and paddy bugs which affect yield and quality.
With the advent of the dry weather and the water level below gravity feed in the main canal, some young rice is being affected at the moment. Farmers who have access to irrigation water are being advised not to waste it so that other farmers can benefit in the areas of higher land. Some of the present crop of rice has been seriously affected by salt because of the water which was taken directly from the rivers in the past. It is advisable that any farmer who anticipates pumping water into their fields should have the water tested. If the meter reads 1000 and above, the water should not be used.
The rice plant is particularly susceptible to salt at the early growth stage of about a month old, and at the flowering and grain-filling stage the yield will be lower, the proportion of unfilled grains will be higher, and chalkiness will increase. The main problem facing the crop has been the lack of proper irrigation due to a long dry season. Some emergency measures should be put in place to alleviate the irrigation problem. These include supplying irrigation water under a schedule to farmers served by the Tapakuma Conservancy; the building of a seven-door sluice between Lima and Coffee Grove; the empoldering of Burn Bush; and the conserving of more water in the main canal during the out-of-crop season.
The average daily discharge of rain is expected to decease, resulting in inadequate water for agriculture, especially the rice industry. The El Niño weather phenomenon has not ended and there is no indication that there will be no recurrence of drought-like weather conditions.
The loss of rice would create a shortfall in terms of accessing new markets, so every effort should be made by the Ministry of Agriculture to assist farmers in accessing fresh water for their crops.
The Ministry of Agriculture should focus on what was done in the past year, and what new strategies should be implemented to improve the rice industry in the subsequent years. The main areas of review should include the lack of irrigation water, the continued dry weather and the areas most affected.
Former RPA Extension Rice Officer