National | Regional Voices: Hiroshima

Farmers in Hiroshima Prefecture struggle to recover after 2018 flooding wrecked rice paddies

Chugoku Shimbun

As the rice-planting season wraps up, Higashihiroshima, known as a rice-producing city, is still reeling from last summer’s devastating floods.

This year, farmers weren’t able to plant rice in 90 percent of the rice fields affected by the flood in the city, officials say.

In response, one agricultural association in a disaster-stricken area launched initiatives to adapt, including by turning nonrice farmland into rice paddies and cultivating soybeans instead in rice fields where waterways were destroyed.

The city’s Uyama district is supposed to be deep in the throes of rice-planting season at this time of year, however, dirt and driftwood abound instead.

According to Agricultural Producers’ Cooperative Corporation Uyama, which handles farmland from about 60 residents, rice planting takes place on 15 hectares of land in the district in an ordinary year. This year, it wasn’t able to plant rice in about 4 hectares because fields and waterways were devastated by the deadly floods.

The cooperative, whose revenues heavily rely on the rice harvest, expects this year’s harvest to be significantly lower than usual, like last year’s, which was also heavily affected by the disaster.

The organization turned some wheat fields that had escaped the disaster into rice paddies, hoping to minimize the damage by securing some degree of rice acreage. For places where waterways were damaged, the group is planning to grow soybeans, which require less water than rice.

“I hope for swift recovery by getting a helping hand from organizations like the city, but the magnitude of the devastation is enormous,” said Masahiro Sakata, 73, who represents the group.

“We have no choice but to deal with the situation.”

Higashihiroshima, which is home to about 6,200 hectares of paddy fields altogether, was hit the hardest in terms of damage to its farmland in Hiroshima Prefecture.

According to the city, 91.93 hectares of paddy fields were damaged because of the heavy rain and floods, and of that figure, about 90 percent weren’t able to plant rice this season.

The overall damage is thought to be much larger if waterway damage is taken into account.

Some agricultural cooperatives, like Uyama’s, opted to plant different crops, but many individual farmers were forced to give up rice planting this year, according to the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives Hiroshima Chuo division.

The city is hoping to conclude recovery efforts of farmlands and agricultural facilities by the end of fiscal 2020, but the outlook for the year ahead is unclear.

“We are going to prioritize fixing large farmlands and waterways that multiple farmers use, and proceed with repair work as we listen to farmers’ requests,” said a city official who is in charge of disaster recovery.

This monthly feature focuses on topics and issues covered by the Chugoku Shimbun, the largest newspaper in the Chugoku region. The original article was published on June 5.

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