A third of farm­ers at risk from farm­ing chem­i­cals

Bangkok Post - - NATIONAL - PATSARA JIKKHAM

Up to 32% of farm­ers are at risk of suf­fer­ing health prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with their ex­po­sure to haz­ardous agri­cul­tural chem­i­cals, such as pes­ti­cides and fer­tilis­ers, the Pub­lic Health Min­istry warned yes­ter­day on Na­tional Farm­ers Day.

The fig­ure comes from a sur­vey con­ducted on 341,039 farm­ers na­tion­wide in the past year, which cor­re­sponds with the lat­est in­for­ma­tion from the min­istry’s Bureau of Pol­icy and Strat­egy. It shows the num­ber of pa­tients who fell ill af­ter ex­po­sure to farm­ing chem­i­cals quadru­pled from 2010 to 2014.

The num­ber of f arm­ers recorded with chem­i­cal-re­lated ill­nesses in 2010 was 1,851, which by 2014 had grown to 7,954, said Pub­lic Health Min­is­ter Piyasakol Sakol­sa­tayadorn.

In a bid to curb this prob­lem, he said, the min­istry had set up a so-called farm­ers health clinic at its tam­bon health pro­mo­tion hospi­tals — which aim to pre­vent rather than treat prob­lems — to make health care more eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to farm­ers in the vil­lages, he said.

The farm­ers health clinic project, which be­gan in 2011, has spread to a third of the 3,333 tam­bon health pro­mo­tion hospi­tals, he said.

Mr Piyasakol said the min­istry aims to ex­pand the farm­ers health clinic ser­vice to cover 40% of the tam­bon’s health pro­mo­tion hospi­tals this year.

Am­nuay Ga­jeena, di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Depart­ment of Dis­ease Con­trol, said the depart­ment’s Bureau of Oc­cu­pa­tional and En­vi­ron­men­tal Dis­eases has been im­ple­ment­ing a sur­veil­lance pro­gramme to de­tect im­proper use of farm­ing chem­i­cals and promptly in­ter­vene so farm­ers do not get ill.

Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha, mean­while, vowed to re­form the coun­try’s farm­ing sec­tor with the ul­ti­mate goal to im­prove its sus­tain­abil­ity.

In a broad­cast speech yes­ter­day, the prime min­is­ter said the gov­ern­ment has be­gun to lay the foun­da­tions of sus­tain­able re­form of the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, while be­gin­ning to in­te­grate state agen­cies to im­prove key ar­eas of the farm­ing sec­tor.

The gov­ern­ment in­tends to ex­am­ine both do­mes­tic and international de­mand for the coun­try’s agri­cul­tural prod­ucts and find ways of farm­ing such prod­ucts to sat­isfy these de­mands.

An­other chal­lenge that con­cerns the farm­ing sec­tor is the con­se­quences of the drought, which ap­pears se­vere this year, said Gen Prayut.

Mea­sures put in place to deal with the con­se­quences of the drought range from of­fer­ing soft loans to farm­ers to im­prov­ing the ef­fi­ciency of the coun­try’s wa­ter man­age­ment.

Last week, Gen Prayut or­dered au­thor­i­ties to pro­duce ar­ti­fi­cial rain to en­sure there is suf­fi­cient wa­ter in the dams for tap wa­ter pro­duc­tion.

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