Prime Minister Hun Sen has told government authorities to help the country’s farmers gather their rice crops to prevent spoiling during the current harvest.
In a letter dated Wednesday, Hun Sen called on ministries, provincial officials and armed forces to take emergency measures to help the harvest.
“[Officials] have to arrange the schedule to put together a workforce [of officials] in provinces and cities to help farmers harvest on time to avoid the loss of rice by over-ripening and to guarantee rice quality and rice yields,” Hun Sen wrote.
Officials should pay particular attention to fire hazards, he said.
Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun said officials have already helped with harvesting in Kandal, Takeo, Kampot and Kompong Cham provinces. About 30 percent of Cambodia’s rice has already been harvested and what remains should be finished by the end of January.
“We have helped the farmers to harvest before and after Prime Minister Hun Sen’s appeal,” Chan Sarun said, adding that the ministry is targeting its help on poor families.
Svay Rieng provincial RCAF commander Pen Sarun said he received Hun Sen’s appeal and is preparing to buy sickles for his soldiers.
While the extra physical labor is appreciated during the harvest, farmers are more worried about marketplace rice prices, said Him Khortieth, spokesman for the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture.
“[Extra labor] is not what all farmers are concerned with; what they’re concerned about is the price” of their rice, he said.
Currently, the price of rice is very low, and farmers “don’t have a market” for their crops, he said.
Demand for Cambodian rice is lower than usual in Vietnam and Thailand, where a large portion of the harvest goes, due to the global economic crisis, Him Khortieth said.
And as rice prices are expected to rise again, farmers need subsidies and loans to tide them over for lean months, or for the government to buy their rice stocks, he added.