YANGON (Reuters) - Farmers in flood-hit Myanmar face a scramble to replant damaged paddy fields in the next two weeks to avoid food shortages, and aid efforts in some of the country’s hardest hit areas remain a challenge, the United Nations said on Saturday.
More than 1.3 million people have been critically affected and at least 106 people have died since heavy monsoon rains coupled with a cyclone last month caused floods across the country, according to the government.
Water has receded in many areas, allowing farmers to assess the damage to their crops and also to seed stocks as the end of planting season nears.
“If farmers aren’t able to get rice seeds and plant in the next two weeks the window for the next season is pretty much over,” said Pierre Peron, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA) in Myanmar.
“If they are not able to replant they will miss out completely on this season and the impact on food security will be much larger than if we can provide them with support to replant.”
Myanmar is a rice exporter, but has halted exports to stabilize prices.
The U.N. and NGOs have supplied emergency food assistance to 386,000 people impacted by the floods, OCHA said in its latest situation report on the flooding.
Over 1.4 million acres of paddy was flooded, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. The crops in over 500,000 acres have been destroyed in what has been the worst natural disaster in Myanmar since Cyclone Nargis killed nearly 140,000 people in May 2008.
The government has provided $1.2 million for paddy seeds in Rakhine State, one of the hardest hit areas, but, “further support will be needed to help farmers and rural communities rebuild”, OCHA said.
In Chin State, a mountainous region bordering Bangladesh and India, where heavy rains caused major landslides, aid workers were still struggling to access some of the state’s more remote regions.
“Access to areas in Chin State has been difficult and continues to be difficult,” Peron said on Saturday.
In the capital of Hakh five out of six townships experienced landslides that damaged hundreds of homes.
Zung Hlei Thang, an MP representing Chin State, said the prices of rice and other commodities had risen sharply since the landslides made many state roads largely impassable, stemming imports.
“The living conditions are difficult,” he said.
Additional reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Editing by Simon Webb and Susan Thomas