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Rats attack Red River rice crops

Update: August, 19/2010 - 09:39
A farmer collects rats caught in his field. Farmers throughout the Red River delta are concerned that rats are increasingly threatening their rice crops. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Na

A farmer collects rats caught in his field. Farmers throughout the Red River delta are concerned that rats are increasingly threatening their rice crops. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Na

HA NOI— While agronomists have warned that the rat population has increased this year, farmers throughout the Hong (Red) River delta are concerned that the pest's might destroy their rice crops.

"Although there has been an increase in the destruction of rice crops caused by rats, the rodent population is unlikely to cause an agricultural crisis this year," said deputy head of the Plant Protection Department Nguyen Tien Dung.

Rats destroyed nearly 30,000ha of the delta's winter-spring crops during the first six months of this year.

Dung said this year's figure would be similar to last year's season, when 67,203ha of rice crops were destroyed by rats.

In 2008, rats destroyed 57,100ha of rice, 45,392ha in 2007, 35,776ha in 2006 and 56,900ha in 2005.

However, these statistics pale in comparison to 1998's figures when 677,000ha of rice crops were destroyed.

Nguyen Van Binh, a farmer from Vuong Dien Hamlet of Ha Noi's Phuc Tho District, believes that the rat population this year could potentially destroy a precipitous amount of rice.

Binh planted nearly 10 sao of rice (one sao equals to 360sqm) in five fields, but rats have already destroyed his entire crop.

The 67-year-old farmer said he has been growing rice for 10 years, but he had never seen a rat infestation like this one.

Rats have infested a large area of rice in the district. The region's production capacity has been reduced by 20 to 30 per cent thus far this year.

Deputy head of Dong Hung District's Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau La Quy Thang said the rat infestation was causing farmers to worry. Rice production could be reduced by 30 to 40 per cent in hard-hit areas, he added.

Nguyen Thi Lieu, who lives in Hong Ha Commune of Dan Phuong District, said every one in her village had taken part in a rat extermination campaign, but they were still incapable of wiping out the entire population.

Head of the Plant Protection Department, Nguyen Xuan Hong, said it would be more effective to hunt rats when farmers are ploughing their fields.

While chemicals could theoretically kill the rats, most cities and provinces across the country are applying manual measures, including setting traps, hunting and using biological alternatives to destroy the infestation.

Department deputy head Dung said in recent years the participation of the entire community was vital to reducing rat infestations.

However, recent rodent extermination campaigns had been crippled by a labour shortage because a large amount of the young population had moved to urban areas to work, said Dung.

He said the infestation had been exacerbated by limited funds, crop diseases and natural calamities.

Nguyen Thi Thuy, a farmer in Nam Dinh Province, said that rats had begun destroying her rice fields immediately after recent flooding.

"Now rats have made it impossible for us to eat or sleep well," she said.

Hong said inclement weather and a recent heat wave created favourable conditions for pests and insects.

The recent extermination of cat and snake populations, which hunt rats, had led to an ecological imbalance that resulted in the increase in rodent populations in the delta, he added. —VNS

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