First Drought, Now Floods Threaten Rice

After dealing with crop damage from the prolonged dry spell, farmers are now facing the opposite problem—too much rain.

Agriculture officials said Mon­day that about 4,000 hectares in each of Takeo and Kompong Speu provinces will be completely written off in the coming days if water cannot be drained away. And with the absence of canal systems, they said it seemed unlikely that the affected paddies will survive.

It is not clear how much rain the storm, a cyclone coming from the South China Sea, dumped on Cambodia over the weekend, but agriculture officials said it came at an inopportune time. The normal rainy season has come to an end, and officials said farmers who had planted their crops late be­cause of the dry spell are nearing harvest.

Agriculture Ministry agronomy department deputy director Kith Seng said Monday that Takeo and Kompong Speu probably were the hardest hit, although Prey Veng and Svay Rieng may have experienced some flooding as well.

And the heavy rain, which fell mainly Saturday, continued Sun­day in Takeo, said the province’s dep­uty agriculture director, Hang Try. “I went down to the rice fields and they are full of water,” he said. “It’s very strange to see flooding at this time of year.”

In the southern part of Kom­pong Speu province nearly every pond is full, and five dirt roads were damaged in Kong Pisey and Barseth districts, said the provincial agriculture director, Bin Sa­reth.

Agriculture officials visited flooded areas Sunday and are looking at ways to drain the paddies, Kith Seng said.

But the lack of canals—a problem that was blamed for the in­ability to water the parched rice crops in many parts of the country this year—now is the main reason the water cannot drain away. While there are some can­als in Kompong Speu, Bin Sareth said, they are insufficient in number and too far away from the affected paddies to do any good.

In Takeo’s Samraong district, officials are considering widening the channel under the district’s only bridge to allow water to pass out of some of the paddies more quickly.

Kith Seng said that such a task takes both time and money, and both are in short supply. But “if the paddies are not drained quickly, the rice will die.”

There is still reason for optimism. Takeo’s Hang Try said that despite the drought and flooding, the province’s rice crop will still be larger this year than last year, with more than 170,000 hectares planted.

The quality might not be as good as he had hoped, however, and there is also the potential of more damage from rats.

The government has estimated that more than 2.5 million tons will be harvested this year, providing a surplus of 64,000 tons. In August, fearing a massive crop failure because of drought conditions, the Council of Ministers said it might appeal for rice donations.


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