When the weather is a farmer’s enemy

From left: Syazwani, Ahmad Riezal and Che MazuraFrom left: Syazwani, Ahmad Riezal and Che Mazura

PETALING JAYA: At Syazwani Liyana Abd Ghani’s farm in Banting, Selangor, the corn harvest has fallen behind schedule because of the weather.

“The delay will affect goods sold to wholesalers. We already have pending orders and customers are waiting,” Syazwani fretted.

The agropreneur’s farm where she grows, among others, corn and fruits, has been hit by erratic weather. Other farms across the country are experiencing the same.

“If the weather continues to be hot, the growth of the lohan guavas and corns would be disrupted and the harvesting time would take longer. If there is continuous rain, the bananas will die as the trees cannot be submerged in water,” she lamented.

Her banana trees were destroyed in previous floods but efforts to mitigate flooding on her farm have hit a dead end.

“We can’t do anything with the condition of the soil and there are plots where you can’t dig up to make gutters,” Syazwani added.

Another agropreneur, Ahmad Riezal Abdul Rahman, saw his farm get submerged twice last year, in November and December.

“My farm is located near the river and there was a time last year when the river overflowed twice. Half of the crops were destroyed by the resulting floods,” he said.

Ahmad Riezal’s efforts to grow watermelon since May have not been fruitful either due to the hot weather.

“The last time I was able to harvest watermelons was in May and that was the only time I was able to cover the cost of operating the farm.

“We usually monitor the changing conditions of the monsoon. After the last harvest, we tried to continue planting for the next season, but it did not work out.

“I hope the third attempt will be more successful as it has started to rain and the temperature has improved,” he said, adding that watermelon plants cannot be submerged in water even for a short time, or the fruit might get bruised.

However, Ahmad Riezal is not giving up yet in trying to outwit the unpredictable weather.

“What I did was replace the damaged watermelon with papaya plants. Papaya trees can be submerged in water for one to two days without any problem and the river usually recedes quickly,” he said.

Che Mazura Mohd, who grows bananas, chillies and brinjals in Temerloh, Pahang, is planning to stop production in October due to the risk of floods during the raining season, expected from the onset of the north-east monsoon.

“We lost the entire brinjal harvest when the farm was affected by floods late last year,” she said.

“Even if we had not been affected by floods, I believe we could not have sold the harvest as it was difficult to get the produce out to markets as the roads were also inundated,” she said.

Since then, facing huge losses from the floods, Che Mazura has yet to revive her farm’s brinjal production.

“We are currently looking for a location where there is no risk from floods,” she said.

Perlis agriculture and agro-based industry executive councillor Nurulhisham Yaakob said harvesting rice had become a problem due to the rain.

“Now that it’s constantly raining, the padi plants get damaged and the fields don’t dry, which becomes a problem,” he said.

A civil servant working in the padi industry said heavy rain in the northern states of Peninsular Malaysia had reduced the harvest.

“Most of the padi in Kuala Perlis has been harvested. A large number of farmers were only able to produce 60% of the harvest compared with previously,” he said.

Padi plants, said the civil servant who asked not to be named, were damaged by the daily rainfall that went on to flood the fields.

“It rained every day and a lot of the plants were destroyed. Some of the rice harvesters even got stuck in the padi fields. When tractors or backhoes came to pull these out, the unharvested rice was destroyed,” he said.

According to Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry data, between 2017 and 2021, the cost of damage to rice crops due to floods was RM128.8mil while the damage caused by drought was RM21.6mil.

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