Farmers facing multiple challenges

JOHOR BARU: Soaring temperatures, the El Nino phenomenon and a lower yield are not all that farmers have to put up with.

Malaysia Federation of Vegetable Farmers Association president Lim Ser Kwee said farmers are also facing problems with pests that are damaging their crops.

“Pest infestation is a common and serious concern during the hot and dry weather. Worms and caterpillars also increase in number and it is not easy to get rid of them when there is hardly any rainfall.

“The rain helps in controlling the number of plant-eating insects and pests by clearing them away,” he told The Star.

Lim said it was costly for farmers to keep spraying pesticides as pests would re-emerge soon after.

“We have to now spray pesticides more frequently and this is a big financial burden. What is worse is that the pests will return not long after to cause more damage,” he said, adding that the vegetables commonly affected are cabbage, long beans and brinjal.

As a result, farmers were unable to sell between 30% and 40% of their yield as it was damaged by pests.

On water resources, Lim said the problem has yet to reach a critical point but could get worse if temperatures continue rising and rainfall is reduced.

“Thankfully, we are still getting a fair amount of rain and this helps replenish water in the ponds and wells in our farms, which are used during dry spells.

“However, we are worried that rainfall will continue to see a decline during the El Nino phenomenon as this will make it very difficult for us to grow our crops,” he added.

Malaysian Fruit Farmers Association vice-president Francis Hong Sun Ho expressed similar concerns, adding that farmers are depending solely on rainwater.

“It is too expensive for farmers to use piped water as they have a vast area to look after. Even farmers who have a good irrigation system in place are dependent on water from rivers and lakes, but these are affected by the dry weather.

“Although we are still getting some rain for now, we can already see our water resources depleting slowly and the situation will only get worse,” he said, adding that farmers who do not have an irrigation system have to water their crops when there is no rainfall.

The hot and dry weather has already started to affect the yield of fruits like papaya, guava and banana.

“Farmers will need to put in extra work to monitor their crops during the dry weather, which is made worse by the lack of manpower,” he added.

On Wednesday, Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said Malaysia is expected to experience a weak El Nino starting this month before it reaches moderate intensity in November.

He said rainfall is expected to be reduced by 20% to 40% from June to October, especially in the southern states in the peninsula, west of Sarawak and east of Sabah.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reportedly declared that El Nino is now underway.

It was reported that the last time a strong El Nino was in full swing was in 2016 when the world saw its hottest year on record. Meteorologists expect that this El Nino, coupled with excess warming from climate change, will see the world grapple with record-high temperatures.

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