A pest known as ‘rice leaf folder caterpillars’ has diseased about 5.7 acres of paddy fields grown organically belonging to 59 households of Phuntshongthang gewog in Samdrupjongkhar.

Farmers of Dungkarling chiwog said they usually produce enough rice for self-consumption and even sell it but they are now worried whether they would be able to produce enough this year.

Farmers say that as the caterpillar folds rice leaves and feed inside, it spreads all over the paddy fields laer.

Pema Tashi, 42, who owns 2.5 acres of paddy fields said more than 50 decimals of his paddy fields have been affected by the caterpillars. 

He said he earned about Nu 30,000 to 40,000 last year by selling rice but this year, he might have to buy rice if the problem continues.

Pema said that the people in the locality depend on rice for income generation. “It would help if the gewog administration and the gewog agriculture extension officer could find a solution to prevent these caterpillars from affecting our paddy fields.”

Another villager, Samdrup, 55, said of the 2.5 acres of paddy fields, more than an acre have been affected.

He said he reported the matter to the gewog and the gewog agriculture extension officer. “The gup and agriculture extension officer visited the fields and took photographs but there is no response until now.”

Samdrup said he waited for a whole day in the field for the agriculture extension officer, as she told him that she was visiting but she didn’t turn up.

He said he has reported for the third time but nothing has been done from the gewog and agriculture offices. “We don’t expect compensation but we will be happy if the concerned authorities could come up with some prevention measures as it’s happening for the first time.”

Farmer Rohit Kumar, 43, said he doesn’t feel like going to the paddy fields and has also stopped watering. “I think I have to stop paddy cultivation if the matter continues because it’s a loss for us as I have spent Nu 21,000 on labour this year.”

Meanwhile, Phuntshothang gup, Jamyang Gyeltshen, said the agriculture officer has not given the pesticides to the farmers as it’s organic farming but they were later provided pesticides. “It is difficult to prevent once its affected and I think the pesticides will not help because most of the paddy fields were affected.”

The assistant dzongkhag agriculture officer, Sonam Phuntsho, said they could have prevented from spreading further if the farmers have reported the matter on time. “All the farmers were trained on bio-pesticides as they do organic farmings.”

He said they have provided bio-pesticides, neem oil and cypermethrin pesticides to the farmers. “There is no effect in the grains but there will be less produce compared to the previous years.”

There are three types of caterpillars that affect paddy- yellow, green and white.

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupcholing