An infestation of large snails is destroying rice fields in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nop district, raising concerns among farmers that yields from this year’s harvest will be much lower than usual.
Eng Samol, Prey Nop district agriculture director, said Tuesday that the snails had already spread to seven of the district’s 14 communes.
“The snails have eaten many of the seedlings. The most affected were Veal Rinh and Samrung communes because the depth of the water there makes these fields particularly vulnerable,” he said.
According to Lang Kean, chief of Bat Sermean village in Prey Nop commune, the snails have destroyed as much as 10 hectares of rice paddy in the area.
“The snails are destroying the rice seedlings and young plants,” he said, adding that attempts by locals to kill the snails using insecticide had proved unsuccessful.
Hem Sophat, a farmer in Bat Sermean village, said the snails had brought him to the point of ruin. “They ate nearly all the seedlings on my farm,” he said on Monday. “I removed many yesterday, but today there were just as many out in the fields.”
He added that he had asked the district department of agriculture for insecticide to kill the snails but had not received a reply.
“This problem is something our rice farmers have always lived with,” said Him Khortieth, communications officer for Cedac, an agricultural NGO that trains farmers in agriculture techniques.
“The most effective solution is the traditional method, which is to place bamboo stakes out in the paddies; during the night, the snails climb up the stakes. Then it’s easy to collect them. This is cheaper than using chemicals and doesn’t harm the environment,” he said.
Mr. Khortieth suggested that the government should pay farmers to collect the snails, like it did during a similar infestation in 2006 to 2007.
“At that time, the government incentivized farmers to collect snails, paying about 500 riel [about $0.18] per kilo. It was successful at reducing problems that year,” he said.
But Hean Vanhorn, deputy director-general of the Agriculture Ministry’s general department of agriculture, said paying farmers sporadically was not enough to reduce the problem. “No control measure is totally effective. We’ve encouraged collections in the past, but it doesn’t work if only done once, and cannot be 100 percent effective even if done many times,” he said.