Despite recent rains in many parts of the country, including Phnom Penh, drought continues to threaten rice cultivation in a number of provinces and districts, government officials said Tuesday.
Nhim Vanda, first vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said the lack of rain is affecting rice cultivation and endangering local food supply in several areas.
The drought is hitting rice farmers particularly hard in Takeo, Kompong Speu and Prey Veng provinces, Nhim Vanda said.
In drought-affected areas, most of the farmland is parched, and water levels in rivers, lakes and ponds are so low that farmers cannot pump water into their fields for rice cultivation, he said.
Nhim Vanda, who said he visited a number of affected provinces Monday, added that in areas where farmers had planted in dry conditions, weeds are outgrowing the wilting rice plants.
He went on to say that farmers in Battambang, Kompong Thom and Pursat provinces could not flood their fields because the water level in the Tonle Sap lake is particularly low for this time of year.
Long Savuth, director of meteorology at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said that in many parts of the country, rain had been falling during the past few days, but he added that rainfall was still lower than usual for this time of year.
Because of the lack of rain, about 1.8 million hectares of farmland has been planted so far this year, almost 13 percent, or about 265,700 hectares, less than the total area under cultivation in September 2007, according to a Sept 4 report from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Chan Tong Yves, secretary of state for the Ministry of Agriculture, said he could not estimate if the drought would affect this season’s national rice production.
Recent rains could help save farmers’ rice crops in some drought-stricken areas, he said.
Kompong Speu Provincial Governor Kang Heang said it had rained in his province Monday and Tuesday, but he added that “it is not enough for our rice farmers; their rice is nearly dying.”
Some farmers in Kong Pisei, Baset and Oral districts did start planting rice Tuesday after the few days of rain, he added.
But according to Chy San, a 63-year-old farmer recently interviewed in Baset district’s Trapaing Chhuk village, local farmers would normally have finished planting their crops in July.
Nhim Vanda said it was hard to assess the scale and impact of the drought, as some governors did not report the effect it is having on agriculture in their provinces.
They failed to do so out of fear of being criticized for not taking appropriate action to help farmers, he said.