A third of farmers at risk from farming chemicals
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.