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Bali's Grapes of Wrath

Lower Produce Prices See North Bali Grape Farmers Reverting Back to Rice Agriculture.

(8/17/2009) Since mid-2007 the amount of land in the regency of Buleleng dedicated to rice agriculture has increased by 333 hectares as more and more farmers are plowing under lands once used for grape production in favor of less-expensive-to-cultivate rice varieties.

Decreasing prices for grapes and the increasingly higher cost of fertilizers and pesticides have seen grape growers suffer non-sustainable losses, prompting the change to rice faming.

Quoted by the Bali Post, ‘Pak' Soka, a farmer from Temekus in the Banjar District, said, "farmers are compelled to plow under their grape vines and turn their rice fields to rice agriculture." He explained that the costs associated with managing a rice crop entails fewer risks and a lower cost than trying to raise grapes. Low prices for grapes also means that farmers have sometimes been forced to watch an entire harvest spoil, while rice crops can be stored for later sale whenever market demand is low.

The transformation of 333 hectares from grape production to rice fields has, however, had minimal effect on the regency’s rice production. While grape fields turn to rice production, large areas of once productive rice fields are being lost to residential projects. Between 2002 and 2006 an estimated 892 hectares of rice fields were converted to villa and residential projects.

Local farmers cite a growing water crisis in Buleleng as another factor pushing the abandonment of agricultural lands to residential pursuits.