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A plague of imported snails has destroyed more than 1,000 acres of rice fields in Irrawaddy Division’s Dedaye Township, farmers told DVB this week.
The snails were apparently brought into the region from Mon State by a breeder. However, they somehow escaped and spread, developing an insatiable appetite for paddy and devastating 10 village tracts in and around Dedaye.
According to Win Naing, a villager from the hamlet of Gwa Lay, last year a private snail breeder imported a large number of the molluscs from Mon State capital Moulmein.
“A farmer from Mee Chaung Ai village brought the snails over from Moulmein. He breeds snails on his farm. These ones were especially beautiful – golden in colour. People here called them ‘golden snails’.
“However, they bred out of control and managed to spread to other farms,” he told DVB on Thursday. “The paddy plants were almost mature, and the snails started to eat them. They ate from the roots of the crops and continued until the entire field was gone.
“When we discovered what was happening, we tried inundating the fields with water to flush out the snails, but it didn’t work. Now we are physically collecting them one by one – you can fill three tins [1 tin = 40.9 litres] with snails from every one acre of paddy field.
“We cannot contain them. They are breeding out of control. Even after we spray the fields in pesticide they still keep going.”
Win Naing said he had personally lost 60 acres of paddy.
Local farmers said that no government assistance had been forthcoming.
The plague comes at the worst possible time, many of the locals said, pointing to the fact that the rice harvest is due in November and December. In addition, the Irrawaddy delta has been heavily affected by floods recently.
Dedaye was one of the worst hit townships when Cyclone Nargis devastated the region in 2008.