Monday, August 27, 2012

Thein Sein tours Burma’s flooded rice paddies

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Monday, 27 August 2012 12:59 Mizzima News

Burma’s President Thien Sein toured the flood-hit Irrawaddy region on Saturday, where he urged farmers to try to start other businesses also and not rely solely on farming, the New Light of Myanmar, the state-run newspaper, said on Saturday.

Burmese President Thein Sein, centre, visited with officials in Irrawaddy region and Pago region on Friday, August 24, 2012. Photo: president's office

During his visits to two locations on Friday, Thein Sein noted that the agriculture sector is Burma’s most important economic sector prior to the building of an industrialized society, which is in its initial development stage.

He met with more than 600 farmers from eight flood-hit townships, and others in the region, presenting them with agricultural loans and providing aid to the flood victims for their basic needs, education and health, the paper said.

More 70,000 flood victims are sheltered at over 200 relief camps opened in Irrawaddy region, said authorities.

Heavy rains over the last few weeks caused the flooding, which primarily affected the country's southern delta region, said Soe Tun, a member of the government's emergency response team, told The Associated Press.

Around 70,000 people have been displaced in the delta and are being housed at 219 emergency relief centers set up at schools and monasteries, he said.

Another 15,000 people have been displaced elsewhere in the country, and more than 600,000 acres (240,000 hectares) of rice fields have been swamped, he said.

Annual monsoon rains often cause flooding in the region, but this year's are the heaviest since 2004, Soe Tun said.

So far, a total of 487 schools including primary, middle and high schools were closed and will be reopened only after the water level drops.

According to local reports, floods across the country, triggered by ceaseless rainfall and overflowing rivers, has inundated over 249,075 hectares, of which over 28,350 hectares were spoiled in nearly one month.

The flood mainly hit Irrawaddy region affecting 109,852 hectares, followed by the Bago region with 77,393 hectares, the Tanintharyi region with 50,070 hectares, according to government statistics.

“Paddy output in Yangon and Irrawaddy regions are estimated to decline up to 40 percent and for the whole country to decrease as 25 percent,” an agriculture expert said. There are about 5.265 million hectares of monsoon paddy being cultivated across the country, the reports said.

The Irrawaddy region, called the “granary” of the nation, is the main rice-producing region.

According to statistics, Burma exported 332,342 tons of rice in the first four months (April-July) of the present fiscal year 2012-13.

Burma has a total paddy cultivated area of 8.1 million hectares, of which 6.8 million hectares are for monsoon cultivation, while 1.3 million hectares are for summer cultivation.

In 2011-12, Burma exported over 800,500 tons of rice, of which 75 per cent was sold to Africa, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines.

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