Bangkok, Oct 5 (IANS) The Thai government has called on farmers across the country to grow plants that require less water than rice in the wake of the ongoing risk of drought, the media reported on Monday.

“Farmers, for example, can grow corn-for-animal feed and pods instead,” government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said on Sunday.

“This is a request that farmers can consider heeding on a voluntary basis.”

He was speaking after rice farmers in Kanchanaburi town expressed dissatisfaction over the government’s plea that they should avoid growing rice outside the rainy season, The Nation online reported.

It takes farmers at least three months from when they start working on their paddy fields to harvest their crops.

The country’s dry season is set to begin next month.

If farmers start growing rice now, their crops risk withering from drought.

Sansern said there has been significantly less rainfall than usual this year.

He said major dams have reported very low water volumes and there were areas of the country still struggling with water shortages.

“The drought will very likely worsen next year and the paddy fields, in particular those in the Central region, will be affected,” he said.

He explained that the government had been doing its best to help farmers such as by providing massive funds to dig artesian wells, creating alternative jobs for farmers, making artificial rain and paying compensation for damaged crops.

“The government has also had to earmark a budget for other purposes and help people in other occupations,” Sansern said.