A grasshopper plague is the latest pestilence to hit beleaguered rice farmers this year as agriculture officials reported an infestation in Kompong Cham province this week.
Hean Vanhan, deputy director of plant protection in the Agriculture Ministry’s agronomy department, said the grasshoppers have infested about 60 hectares of rice paddies in Tbong Khmum district this week.
“They work fast,” he said. “They ate up four or five hectares in one night in one spot.”
Kompong Cham and other provinces have already been struck this season with army worm and planthopper infestations that have destroyed hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice seedlings.
Hean Vanhan said provincial officials have been ordered to monitor the grasshopper situation, but won’t take action until they know more specifics.
“Until a clear report comes from the province, we’re still too busy dealing with the planthopper plague in other provinces,” he said.
Gary Jahn, a crop protection specialist at the International Rice Research Institute of Cambodia, said he has been aware of the grasshopper situation for the past month, but was not too concerned yet.
Grasshoppers normally appear in July and August, he said. Infestations usually occur in drought conditions, he added.
But Hean Vanhan said this was the worst grasshopper infestation he has seen since 1995.
Meanwhile, the planthopper infestation has spread into a remote district in Takeo province, Hean Vanhan said. About 1,200 hectares have fallen to the brown-winged insect in Tram Kak district, he said.
The Council of Ministers on Aug 14 called for the Ministry of Agriculture to take measures against the insect outbreaks. It also appealed to the international community and private aid organizations to donate 250,000 tons of rice to make up for shortfalls caused by the infestations and dry conditions.
Cambodia typically produces 2 million tons of rice per year.