Government Now Optimistic About Rice Crop

Just two months after warning of possible rice shortages, the government announced Wednes­day that it expects the upcoming harvest to meet Cambodia’s needs.

Despite a prolonged dry spell and pest infestations, the government estimates that the 1998-99 rice crop will total 2.51 million tons, spokesman Sieng La­presse told reporters. He said that would provide each person with 150 kg of rice, leaving a surplus of 64,000 tons.

In August, fearing a massive crop failure, the Council of Min­isters said it would appeal for 250,000 tons of rice from international donors.

Asked why the government had raised the alarm just a short time earlier, Sieng Lapresse re­plied, “Usually it is better to brace for something beforehand than to neglect it.”

The spokesman also said Cam­bodia does not want to be an “in­ter­national beggar.”

Until that next harvest, however, anecdotal evidence has suggested that food will be in short supply in many places in the country.

There have been reports of children being sold for food or money by destitute families in Kompong Thom and dozens of villagers have been making daily appearances outside the Royal Palace asking for food assistance.

On Monday the Japanese government donated 16,532 tons of rice to the UN World Food Pro­gram, which will be distributed to 200 sites around Cambodia.


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