Drought crisis affecting farmers’ livelihoods

Thai farmers are seeing taking hits to their income as the drought crisis continues. It could cost the Thai economy 37 billion baht or around 0.2 per cent of the GDP this year, said Tisco’s Economic Strategy Unit (ESU).

The ESU, citing the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, said in its latest economic report that emergency drought measures have been declared in 22 provinces with farmers affected by what is considered to be the worst drought in 40 years.  

They said that the water level in the Chao Phraya dam reservoir as of February 12 was at its lowest since 2015. The hardest-hit areas are concentrated in the central region where most of the country’s rice is grown.

The Department of Foreign Trade on Wednesday said the country’s export target for rice in 2020 was at 7.5 million tonnes, down from 7.58 million tonnes last year.

Keerati Rushchano, the department’s director-general said that the ongoing drought, the strong baht, and higher production cost when compared to competitors, especially Vietnam and India, is making Thai rice “much more” expensive than its peers. 

Other export crops such as rubber and sugar are also taking a hit from the drought. Sirivuthi Siamphakdee, vice-chairman of Thai Sugar Millers Corporation said last week that sugar output might drop by 30 per cent to 9-10 million tonnes this year, while cane production is predicted to fall from 130 million in the previous season to less than 90 million in 2020. 

The industries that stand to be affected by lowered output in crops include the fertilization and pesticide sector, oil refining and gas separation industries, agricultural services, and financial services industries.

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