ALOR SETAR: Padi farmers in Pokok Sena, Kedah, are racing against the clock to save their crops, which are suffering in both quality and quantity.
Already, many have lost almost half their income with the padi harvest suffering due to the extreme heat in the region.
“Those who planted padi early saw a decrease in the weight of rice during harvesting,” said farmer Wan Maharuddin Sulaiman, 67.
“The rice grains are empty and there are other issues, such as padi-related diseases and pests like stemborers.
“This has affected our livelihood,” he said, adding that the land could become infertile if the sweltering heat persists.
Some are calling it the New Year heatwave and the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) said it can only get worse in Penang, Kedah and Perlis, with temperatures reaching more than 35°C, and without rain until Sunday.
Another farmer, Che Hassan Ghaz, 40, said there was nothing much they could do about the weather.
“The water supply from Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada) is enough for now, but if there is no rain for another month, we must have a Plan B to ensure the crops are properly irrigated.
“Most probably we will have to pump water from nearby rivers,” he said.
As of Monday, the effective capacity of dams in Pedu, Muda and Ahning were 73.53%, 84.96% and 96.96% respectively.
These three dams are under the management and supervision of Mada.
In Pendang, Farmers Area Organisation South Pendang chairman Abdullah Mohamad said there has been no rain in several places since a month ago with Kampung Charok Kering, Sungai Jagong, Paya Mat Inson and Bakar Arang the most affected.
“Most of us have already planted our crops and are currently waiting for the next harvest.
“However, we may suffer losses of as much as 50% due to the heatwave,” he said.
Abdullah said for now, the farmers would have to pump water from nearby rivers such as Sungai Jagong and Sungai Pendang to irrigate the canals.
Mada chairman Datuk Dr Ismail Salleh urged more farmers to join the programme to have five harvests every two years to boost padi production and avoid the impact of the drought.
“Padi farmers must adhere to a planting schedule prepared by agricultural experts, right down to the specific days to begin phases such as seeding, transplanting, fertiliser and pesticide applications, and finally, harvesting.
“Currently, only about 12% of farmers have joined this programme.
“If they follow Mada’s advice, they won’t be affected by the current hot season,” he said, adding that Mada would maintain irrigation canals to help the farmers every season.
In Perlis, Harumanis farmer and entrepreneur Mohd Nasir Salim, 33, said the extremely hot weather might affect the mango harvest too.
“For Harumanis to grow healthy, we need at least a month of hot temperature to produce sweet and delicious fruits. But if it is too hot, the flowers will drop prematurely from the trees.
“If this happens, it will affect production. I expect the first harvest just before Hari Raya or in early April,” he said.
Perlis Harumanis Entrepreneurs Association chairman Datuk Hashim Suboh urged the relevant agencies to build tube wells for plantations located far from a water source.
“These tube wells only cost between RM4,000 and RM5,000 each.
“They can be built at Harumanis farms to help cool the temperature if the weather is extremely hot,” he said.