Lower Rainfall Could Have Ill Effects for Provincial Farmers

Rainfall in Cambodia is still lower than last year and could cause problems for rice farmers in certain parts of the country, a Ministry of Water Resources and Meteor­ology official said Mon­day.

Long Savuth, director of the ministry’s Department of Meteor­ology, said he expects that the provinces of Prey Veng, Kom­pong Cham and Kratie will not receive the minimum amount of rain needed for rice cultivation.

The situation in districts in the east of Kompong Speu province and the west of Takeo province was critical, he said Monday, adding that he still had hope that enough rain would fall in these districts before the end of the rainy season to enable farmers to grow rice.

However, Srun Sokhom, de­p­uty director of the Agriculture Mini­stry’s Agronomy and Agri­cultural Land Improvement De­partment, said that this season’s low rainfall would not effect Cambodia’s rice harvest or dom­estic rice prices be­cause pro­vinces around the Tonle Sap lake were having a successful growing season.

Srun Sokhom added that he expected areas hit by drought to recover because rains had recently begun to fall in many of the worst affected districts.

A report released last week by the Agriculture Ministry’s Sta­tistical Department said that a lack of rain had caused a 19 percent decline in farmland under cultivation compared with August last year.

About 50,000 hectares of rice paddy has been affected by brown plant hoppers and by drought, the report said.

An emergency seed and fertilizer distribution has been launched in Takeo province by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organi­za­tion and the Agriculture Mini­stry as part of an initiative to alleviate soaring food prices, an FAO official said Mon­day.

The project will distribute 56 tons of rice seed and 140 tons of fertilizer to 2,800 poor households in Bati, Traing and Samroang in Takeo province in order to boost agricultural production, FAO program officer Chuop Paris said.

The three districts were selected for the project, as farmers there were severely affected by drought and brown plant hoppers, Chuop Paris said.

“All the seedlings in these districts died,” Chuop Paris said, add­ing that this year the districts had received only a third of the rainfall received in August 2007.

Rising food prices have hit Cam­bodia particularly hard, and natural disasters have had a negative impact on food production, a news release from FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture said.

“The prices of food and other commodities are now well be­yond the reach of consumers,” Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun and FAO Country Repre­sentative Omar Salah Ahmed jointly stated.

In the longer term, projects un­der the FAO’s Initiative on Soar­ing Food Prices are aimed at in­creased agricultural productivity, irrigation and improving storage, ac­cording the statement.

(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)

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