TONTON ASTRO AWANI

PENGUNJUNG SETIA

17 Januari 2012

DISEASE BREAKS FARMERS' RICE BOWL

SOME 250 padi farmers in Sawah Ring continue to suffer huge losses incurred by the destruction of their crops, by what appears to be a recurring disease.

disease

Selamat Mat Amin, 52, with the padi afflicted with the disease, symptoms of which are reddish leaves and empty husks Pic by Shahrul M. Zain

Over a year ago, the disease laid to waste their rice crops. Their revenue plunged by more than 90 per cent.

A farmer who previously earned an average monthly income of RM3,000 is now making only RM200.

The disease, which the farmers have not been able to identify, leaves the farmers with empty husks at harvest time.

Worse, the disease has spread to most of the padi fields there.

Farmer Sepie Md Yassin, 58, said the disease had devastated at least 70 per cent of his padi crop.

"The husks of affected padi are empty, with no rice at all.

"We are unable to identify the disease, and all of the pesticides we have used to try to contain the problem have proved useless," he said.

Most of the padi fields have been in existence for over 50 years.

The farmers say they have never before encountered such a destructive force.

There are 222.5ha of padi land in Sawah Ring.

The land is cultivated by some 250 farmers.

Selamat Mat Amin, 52, said the disease first hit his farm bout five planting seasons ago.

"The disease is characterised by reddish leaves and empty husks when it is time to harvest.

"The Department of Agriculture has taken samples of the padi for analysis but there are no findings yet," he said

Zailan Sarmin, 46, said this season's harvest earned him RM300 after deducting the costs.

"I have to look for a part-time job as that is not enough to feed my family," he added.

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