Prime Minister Hun Sen made a public plea for water pumps, fuel and food aid on Monday to combat a drought that he said is racking this year’s rice crop.
“The biggest concern of the Cambodian government is this drought, which is damaging several thousand hectares of rice fields,” the premier said at a ceremony marking RCAF’s 51st anniversary.
“On behalf of the government, I would like to appeal to authorities at all levels, and to the people, to help by sending fuel and water pumps that are necessary to rescue our rice crops,” he said.
Many villages with irrigation pumps are still losing their crops to drought because of a fuel shortage, he said.
The machines are sitting idle while rice paddies dry up, he said.
With rainfall below average in recent weeks, officials warn that rice yields could fall and threaten the country’s food supply for next year.
Hun Sen said he has directed the Ministry of Finance to tighten its expenditures where possible in order to divert money to the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, which can provide the fuel to power irrigation projects.
He also urged farmers to turn to alternative crops if there is insufficient rain or irrigated water for rice paddies.
“I appeal to companies and charities to distribute fuel and food to the victims of the drought,” Hun Sen said.
“The authorities cannot allow people to starve,” the prime minister said.
Tao Sen Hour, vice president of the Agriculture and Rural Development Council, said the government is reviewing expected rice yields and inspecting the areas that have been hit hardest by the drought.
The rice crop will suffer greatly if the country does not receive regular rain this month, he said on Monday.
“Last year there was no drought and we had an overwhelming output, but this year it seems we are having a serious drought,” Tao Sen Hour said .