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Flash floods hit Thai rice growers months after drought

[BANGKOK] Thailand said on Thursday flash floods caused by tropical storm Podul damaged over 240,000 hectares of agriculture land, months after a long-drawn drought hit the country's rice-growing regions.

Nearly 220,000 hectares of rice farms were damaged by the storm that hit the country on Aug 29, while the rest of the impacted land contained livestock, aquaculture and other crops across northern and north-eastern provinces, the Ministry of Interior said in a statement.

The damage may hit the Thailand's rice production by 100,000 tonnes, Siwat Luangsomboon, assistant managing director at Kasikorn Research Center, told Reuters.

Flash floods caused due to the storm have killed 16 people, affecting over 100,000 households.

In July, the government had asked farmers to delay planting rice due to droughts in more than a dozen provinces in the same region.

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After the droughts and storms, agriculture income growth has been slashed to 2 per cent from 4.6 per cent a year earlier, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives policy expert Poomsak Rasri told Reuters.

"There is a (forecast) reduction for all agriculture products, including rice, rubber, palm oil, and tapioca," he added.

Thailand, which is the world's second-largest rice exporter, could see more flash floods and water runoffs from tropical depression Kajiki in the coming days, the Meteorological Department said in a statement on their website on Wednesday.

The storm comes at a time when the Thai economy is bracing for tougher times ahead after the central bank cut growth forecasts to 3.3 per cent from 4.1 per cent a year earlier.

This is likely to add to the plight of the country's rice exporters, who are struggling as the Thai baht shines at an over six-year high as Asia's best performing currency against the dollar. Cheaper dollar makes rice exporters loose money.

However, income guarantees for farmers, part of the government's US$10 billion stimulus package announced in August, would cap losses due to declining farm income and household consumption, Mr Siwat added. 

REUTERS

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