Hateruma-jima sugarcane crops affected by biggest draught in 40 years

Hateruma-jima sugarcane crops affected by biggest draught in 40 years

Photograph: The draught that hit Hateruma-jima is damaging sugarcane crops. Some crops roll its leaves to conserve moisture, while others have wilted. Photographed on July 20, by Hateruma Seito.

July 30, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo

Hateruma-jima, an island of Taketomi, has not received any significant amount of rain since June 9. The draught is increasingly affecting sugarcane crops on the island; in addition to leaf rolling—the plant’s mechanism to keep moisture from escaping, some of the ratoons and the summer seed canes are beginning to wilt. There is not sufficient water in the reservoir to water the fields either. An employee of Hateruma Seito, the island’s sugar refinery, expressed concerns over the situation: “We haven’t had a draught like this in about 40 years.”

The Okinawa Meteorological Observatory recorded 101.5 millimeters of rainfall on June 9, but only 6.5 millimeters since. The trend of light rain continued into July, with about 56.5 mm of precipitation for July, as of July 28. It is unlikely that Hateruma-jima will receive the average rainfall this month, which is 126.1 mm. Sugarcane production was expected to reach 11,900 tons this season, but due to the drought, it is likely to stay below 10,000 tons. The sugar refinery employee said, “the spring seed canes did not grow much either. If the draught persists, crop growth will suffer.”

Yonaguni-jima is also facing a light draught. According to the Okinawa Meteorological Observatory, the island received 29.0 mm of rainfall for July as of July 28, which is significantly lower than the average July precipitation of 138.5 mm. Yonaguni-jima planned to produce 4,500 tons of sugarcane this season, but its harvest may be reduced if the draught continues.

According to a representative of the JA Okinawa Sugarcane Promotion Department, the agricultural co-op is deploying tank trucks to water sugarcane fields, as requested by growers.

(English translation by T&CT and Monica Shingaki)

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