Last year’s wet-season rice crop was better than 2002’s, according to a report released Monday by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The wet growing season produced 922,057 tons more rice in 2003 than in 2002. More hectares were planted and the yield per hectare was also up from the year before. The report comes amid a drought that experts say has dropped river levels to the lowest in a decade.
“This year the yield is better because of good seed, better maintenance and favorable water,” said Kith Seng, director of planning at the ministry. The report credited favorable rains for yield increases.
The wet-season rice crop requires just enough rain to ensure the rice grows, but not so much that floods kill the seed, said Ian Campbell, a senior environmental specialist with the Mekong River Commission.
“It depends on the timing of the rainfall,” he said.
Because the drought, which the commission said last week was responsible for record low river levels, was most severe during the dry season, the wet-season rice crop still did well, he said.
The dry seasons in 2003 and this year so far have been especially dry, he said. In 2003, the rainy season started later than normal and was weaker at the start, but by the middle of the season the rains were back to normal. The rains also tailed off earlier than normal, he said.
Seth Vannareth, director of the Meteorology Department at the Ministry of Water Resources said rainfall in 2003 was slightly higher than 2002, but it was less than previous years.
Campbell called the drought a hydrological drought: “There is enough rain for the rice but not enough to recharge ground water and maintain water flows.” He said there have also been reports of this kind of drought in northern Thailand.
Lack of water during the 2003 dry season hurt the season’s rice crop, Kith Seng said, which produces far less rice than the wet-season crop.