Hun Sen Slams WFP Over Alleged Food Shortage Warning, Predicts Record Rice Harvest

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday lashed out at the World Food Program, accusing it of falsely reporting that Cambodia was at risk of a food shortage. Mr Hun Sen said he instead expected the biggest-ever rice harvest this year at 8 million tons of paddy.

The WFP Cambodia office denied that its staff had made such claims.

During an inauguration ceremony in Battambang City, Mr Hun Sen claimed he had recently heard a radio interview with a WFP official warning of a food shortage.

“I have heard the World Food Program say that Cambodia is vulnerable to food shortages,” he said.

He then dismissed the idea, saying the country could instead look forward to a bumper crop during the harvest season, which has just started.

“This year we can call the most lucrative rice-producing year in the last 32 years since the Pol Pot regime. Our [paddy] rice harvest will be about 8 million ton and we will have 3.7 million tons…to export,” he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture has reported that in 2009-2010 the total harvest was 7.6 million tons of paddy rice. The Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report on Dec 1 that it expected a 4 percent drop in this year’s Cambodian rice production to 7.3 tons due to delayed and erratic seasonal rains.

Mr Hun Sen warned that the WFP official responsible for the supposed remarks should publicly retract his statement or the government would withdraw the 2,000 tons of rice it contributed to WFP’s programs.

Finance Minister “Keat Chhon…you should call the representative of the World Food Program in Phnom Penh and ask if they did that,” he said. “The official who said has to do a correction. Otherwise we take the rice and money back.”

Jean-Pierre de Margerie, country representative at WFP Cambodia, said he was surprised by Mr Hun Sen’s remarks, as neither he nor other WFP staff had given any radio interviews.

“I didn’t speak to the radio in ages. I am the only one that speaks to the media,” he said.

Mr de Margerie said WFP did not think Cambodia was at any risk of food shortage.

“We clearly consider Cambodia as having a food surplus for many years,” he said.

WFP supports about one million Cambodians per year through programs that provide free school breakfasts and support mothers and young children, and vulnerable groups such as tuberculosis patients with free food, the organization said on its website.


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