Drought Hitting Rice Farmers, Risking Target, Ministry Says

More than 150,000 hectares of rice fields have been affected by a drought in some areas of the country, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, warning that the lack of rain, combined with labor shortages, could prevent the government from meeting its rice production goal this year.

“This year, the early-season drought lasting a long time has resulted in a lack of water, while agricultural labor has decreased, so more farmers are throwing rice rather than transplanting rice,” the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The method of throwing rice seeds across fields, rather than planting seedlings in the soil, is faster but yields significantly smaller harvests.

Hean Vanhan, a deputy director general at the Agriculture Ministry, said Sunday that the government risked missing its rice production target of about 2.57 million hectares this year.

“We are afraid that from now until when we can still do transplanting or planting, if the rains come late, production cannot meet the target,” Mr. Vanhan said.

“We currently do agriculture in a way that is entirely dependent on the rain, but it is very difficult to predict the situation from now until the end of the season,” he added.

Samath Veasna, an executive member of the Cambodian Rice Federation, said the drought had hit Battambang—one of the country’s biggest rice-producing provinces—particularly hard.

“So in general, farmers have been more in debt,” he said. “They are relying on remittances sent from children who work overseas and at factories in Phnom Penh and other provinces, or other sectors like construction.”

However, Yang Saing Koma, president of agricultural NGO Cedac, said the impact of the current drought could be mitigated if normal rains arrived by early October.

“I think it’s still fine, even though there has been a lack of rain in many parts of the country, like Kompong Speu and Battambang… because the rainy season is not finished yet,” he said.

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