A long spell of hot, dry weather in Preah Vihear province has destroyed 7,000 hectares of cassava, sesame and corn crops in Kulen district’s Srayong and Phnom Tbeng II communes, government officials said yesterday.
“The farmers always start to plant crops before Khmer New Year because after that it has a lot of rain. But this year there was a drought,” said Kulen district governor Chum Puy. “The weather has changed.”
This is the first time in recent memory that crops have fallen victim to drought, according to Mr Puy, who said flooding during harvest time has traditionally caused the majority of crop damage.
“The families that got bank loans to pay for seeds to plant crops got nothing and now owe between $3,000 and $5,000,” Mr Puy said.
Chan Heng, director of the Agriculture Ministry’s administrative office, said yesterday his office had yet to receive any other reports of crops dying due to warm weather but did say that planting has been delayed.
About a third less land has been plowed as had been at this time last year and, only 304,954 hectares, some 13.38 percent of the 2,279,180 hectares of land the government expects to be planted in 2010, has been seeded for rice.
“We cannot conclude whether the weather will affect the harvest or not because the season just began,” Mr Heng said.
Yaing Sang Koma, president of the Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, agreed that predicting the season based on weather so far might be difficult, but said he was particularly concerned because 2010 has so far mimicked 2004, when a prolonged drought led to food shortages.
According to Mr Koma, farmers relying on any type of crop stand to lose significant amounts of money as their planting season, and the harvest season along with it, get bumped back.
“When farmers cannot grow rice, that is the biggest concern, because they do not have much income coming from other sources,” Mr Koma said.