No Drought Yet, But Last Year’s Floods Still Felt

Rice prices are high, but it’s not because of sporadic drought conditions across Cambodia, a rice seller said Sunday.

“The rice is expensive now be­cause the crop was small last year,” explained Siev Kheng, who has sold rice for the past three years at Phsar Chas. “It’s not really affected by the weather this year.” At least, not yet.

Two months ago, high-quality Cambodian Somaly rice was selling for 1,400 riel per kilogram. She said every year as stocks diminish, the price creeps up. Now Somaly is 1,600 riel per kilogram—where she expects it to stay until the harvest begins in November.

Episodes of drought have hurt rice farmers in areas of Svay Rieng, Prey Veng and Battam­bang provinces, with problems also reported in Kompong Chhnang and Kompong Thom provinces. But while individual farmers may be suffering, it would take an extended period of drought—say, the entire month of August—to hurt the country’s over­all rice crop, experts say.

Seth Sovannareth, the government’s weather forecast director, says she does not see that happening. Last month’s dry periods were part of the normal annual “small dry season” which usually occurs in June and July, she said.

“So now, from this month, the rains start to fall again. But we will not have as much rain as in 2000. The rainy season will progress as normal—not floods and not drought,” she said.

About 90 percent of Cambo­dia’s rice crop depends on rainfall for water, and the problem for farmers is that rain does not fall uniformly. In Battambang pro­vince’s rich Thmar Koul district, farmer Sok Sakhon got a bad scare in July. “I planted 45 hectares of rice this year, and I was very worried in July because there was no rain. My rice turned red. Now I have hope again, because early this month it began to rain. Now the rice is growing again and it is green. I am happy because the dis­aster has passed over,” he said.

If the rain continues, Sok Sakhon said he expects a good crop. Fellow farmer San Chi lost nearly half his crop to flooding last year.

“This year I was worried about drought, but now I am worried less because the rains [have resumed],” he said.

Still, San Chi said he is taking nothing for granted.

“I don’t know what will happen next month,” he said. “I listen to radio weather forecasts.”

 

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