Rat Infestation Feared in Rice

Agriculture officials warned Wednesday that rice farmers could face a serious infestation of rats in the next month.

“It’s inevitable that the rat outbreak will arrive this month or next month,” Undersecretary of State Ith Nody said.

While rats are an annual threat to Cambodia’s crops, causing an estimated $1 million in damage each year, the lack of flooding this year has many officials concerned that the outbreak could be worse than usual.

Floods drive the rats to higher ground during the rainy season, and eastern provinces such as Svay Rieng tend to suffer the most because the Mekong River floods the southern regions and sends the rats north.

But if there are no floods this year, the dry ground will provide an ideal environment for the rodents to survive.

Ith Nody estimated that more than 80,000 hectares of rice paddies along the Tonle Sap could be devastated by rats if the floods don’t come.

In previous years, a variety of methods have been used to keep the rats at bay, ranging from surrounding paddies with plastic sheeting to massive rat hunts with spears and slingshots.

Agriculture officials also hope that the bustling trade in rats, which are used for fish food, will encourage people to catch the rodents.

The rats sell for about 600 riel per kilogram.

The government has promised $164,000 to the Ministry of Agri-culture for rat control measures, but Ith Nody said no money has arrived.

Knowing there is little cash available, Ith Nody has also requested assistance from the Japanese International Coopera-tion Agency.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Mini-ster Tao Seng Huor said Wednes-day that provincial officials will meet this month for a final assessment of the country’s rice production.

The government will then decide how much rice it needs from donors.

In August, the government said it may need to request as much as 250,000 tons.



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