Thailand asks farmers not to grow off-season rice on drought worries

FILE PHOTO: A woman shows collected rice seeds during the annual royal ploughing ceremony in central Bangkok, Thailand, May 9, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The Thai government has asked farmers in 22 provinces to not grow off-season rice, as the country braced for a dry spell amid low water levels in main reservoirs.

Thailand, the world’s second-largest rice exporter after India, will not have enough water to grow the crop in some 960,000 hectares of rice fields around the Chao Phraya River basin in the coming months, authorities said on Monday.

Water in the country’s four main reservoirs covering the 22 provinces currently stood at 5.4 billion cubic meter, a level lower than 12 billion a year earlier, said Thaweesak Thanadachophol, deputy director-general of the Royal Irrigation Department.

“That’s enough for consumption but not for off-reason rice growing,” Thaweesak said.

“So we’ve asked farmers not to grow rice.”

Off-season rice growing usually starts in November and harvest begins in February. Thailand entered a dry season on Nov. 1, which is expected to last through to April 30 next year.

Last month, the cabinet approved a series of drought management measures, including drilling groundwater wells and making artificial rain.

Rerporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Rashmi Aich