VIENTIANE, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Low rainfall and high temperatures are destroying the crops of Lao farmers across the country, local daily Vientiane Times on Wednesday reported.
Analysts say the lowest seasonal rainfall in decades will not only have a severe impact on farmers' livelihoods, but will also affect food security.
Lao Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Bounkhuang Khambounheuang on Tuesday told local media that wet season rice transplantation is only 40 percent complete. He acknowledged that the lack of rain had delayed rice production in the country's 800,000 hectares of wet-season rice fields, but said exact figures concerning damaged crops had not been reported.
"Our ministry has told provincial and district authorities to send officials to help farmers immediately, not wait for official advice from the ministry," Bounkhuang said.
"Our agriculture officials might encourage farmers to grow other crops that result in higher economic returns. Farmers who have borrowed money from banks need to report to authorities regarding the amount of damaged crops so the government can help negotiate with the banks," he added.
In northern Lao province of Xayaboury where rice is widely planted, a steering committee has been established to work closely with farmers in different districts.
At present, only 45 percent of 34,000 hectares of wet-season rice fields have been transplanted. Farmers in the province also grow other crops on 112,000 hectares of land.
Good news is that Lao Meteorology and Hydrology Department issued a forecast on Monday, suggesting that there will be more rainfall at the end of July and early August. The rainfall will result in a gradual rise in the level of the Mekong and its main tributaries.