Rice Surplus Expected From 2003

The country expects a rice surplus of 600,000 tons from 2003 thanks to good rainfall, Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun said Wednesday.

“The rice yield is better,” Chan Sarun said, adding that the final eval­uation will be conducted at the end of the month. He estimated that 4.3 million tons of rice were grown on more than 2 million hec­tares of farmland last year, a yield of about 2.15 tons per hectare.

The rice yield improved significantly over 2002, a year that saw dev­as­tating floods and droughts. Many farmers gave up their plots of land that year because of the sev­ere conditions, causing the rice yield to fall to 1.5 tons from 1.9 tons in 2001.

About 50,000 hectares of land normally used to grow rice went uncultivated in 2002, hurting more than 2 million people in nine prov­inces, government officials said.

Last year, rice production in­creased because of steady rainfall, short dry spells and less flooding, officials said. About 92 percent of the country’ s more than 2 million hectares of rice-growing land was cultivated in 2003, up from 84 percent in 2002.

Although last year was better than 2002, farmers in several prov­inces were not immune to weather variations.

Low rainfall hurt rice production in Kompong Cham, Kom­pong Thom and Siem Reap provinces, Chan Sarun said.

“Some farmers in the mountainous and remote areas could face a shortage of rice, but at a very low level,” the minister said.

Although Battambang province saw about 19,000 hectares of paddy fields destroyed in Nov­ember, the province’s rice yield last year was much better than 2002, said Seng Chhoeurth, dep­uty director of the provincial agriculture department.

Drought caused Siem Reap province to lose about 1,000 hec­tares in Varin, Srey Snam and Ang­kor Thom districts, said Tat Bunchoeun, director of the prov­incial agriculture department. The province’s rice production in 2003 was less than in 2002, he said, because of a dry spell at the end of the rainy season.


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