The Star, 12 May 2014
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians might have to brace for more than just water rationing and hot weather during the second half of the year when the El Nino weather pattern is predicted to hit the country.
El Nino, a periodic warming in the waters of the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, is expected to bring about a prolonged dry spell, seriously affecting farmers who grow rice, vegetables and fruits and also adversely impact the country’s oil palm industry.
With padi farmers facing the biggest brunt, the country’s rice stockpile is expected to drop, raising questions of food security.
Agriculture and Agro-based Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said rice growers needed a lot of water.
“We can get water for other agriculture areas but not for padi fields. Water must flood the fields and cannot be less than the needed amount,” he said.
Ismail Sabri said the ministry was making plans to brace for El Nino and had held discussions with Department of Irrigation and Drainage, rice farmers and others in the industry.
He said it was vital to identify the padi areas, explaining that situations were different in the various states.
“As the padi season and harvest cycles differ in the states we will have to look at strategies to use for methods of water retention,” he said.
Ismail Sabri said areas under the Kemubu Agricultural Development Authority (Kada) and the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada) were not expected to face serious problems as both had enough irrigation but other growing areas that required water to be channelled in from elsewhere would face difficulties.
As for fruit and vegetable production, he said the ministry was identifying the types of produce that would be affected the most.
“If we cannot produce the adequate amounts, we will increase imports. The ministry will make sure that there is enough supply,” he added.
The ministry’s deputy secretary-general, Datuk Mohd Arif Abdul Rahman, said the country would rely on the national rice stockpile and also on rice sourced from Thailand and Cambodia.
He said even if prices go up because of shortage, the price would remain the same as it is a controlled item
Meanwhile, Bernama reports that Mada is making preparations to ensure the water supply system in the area is not interrupted.
“We expect the channelling system for the first padi season not to be affected because the water was supplied in three phases – on March 26, April 9 and April 23.
“What worries us is that we are entering the second season which begins in September until February.
“We need to monitor the occurrence of the phenomenon,” Mada chairman Datuk Othman Aziz said yesterday.
He said the process of channelling water to the padi areas depended upon water levels in the three Mada dams, but the priority was on domestic usage.