By Amy Sawitta Lefevre
BANGKOK, July 21 (Reuters) - Drought conditions in Thailand that have threatened the country's rice production and economic growth are over, the deputy head of Thailand's disaster prevention department said on Tuesday.
Widespread drought has put pressure on Thailand, Southeast Asia's second-largest economy. The wet season is underway but Thailand was contending with drought conditions in seven out of 67 provinces last week, according to the National Disaster Warning Center.
On Tuesday, none of the country's 67 provinces were experiencing drought, according to the center. Seven provinces were declared drought-free but are experiencing water shortages because of inadequate rainfall.
"The drought situation is over as we saw rainfall consecutively over the past week. However, there are seven provinces, mostly in the north, that are experiencing no rainfall still," Anusorn Kaewkangwan, deputy director-general of Thailand's Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, told Reuters.
"Each affected province has an emergency fund that will help it take care of water shortages including the implementation of short-term relief measures."
Rice farmers in Thailand, the world's second-biggest exporter of the grain after India, have been asked to delay planting their main crop until August in order to conserve precious water.
As a result of weak global demand and the drought, the Thai Rice Exporters Association this month said exports will likely reach 9.5 million tonnes this year, down from a previous target of 10 million tonnes.
Agriculture Minister Petipong Pungbun Na Ayudhya told reporters on Tuesday that the government would release some water from major dams in Thailand on Wednesday to help farmers who have already planted their crops.
Earlier this month, Thailand approved loans of up to 60 billion baht ($1.77 billion) to support farmers affected by drought.
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