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Armyworms Wreak Havoc on Crops

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More than 20 thousand hectares of farmland spread over 10 provinces have been affected by armyworms since last week, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
This includes thousands of hectares of rice along with other crops including cassava, peanuts and watermelons. The affected farmland is mainly in the northern and northeastern part of the country, but the damage by armyworms is becoming such a problem that concerns are being raised about this year’s rice crop – particularly as this sector has already been hit by a long drought.
Dy Sam An of the Agriculture Ministry’s Crop Protection Department, said about 17,000 hectares of land damaged by armyworms had been reclaimed thanks to intervention by agricultural ministry officers.
However, only 30 percent of this land has been successfully rescued and brought back to productivity, he said.
“According to our studies, about 17,000 hectares of land has lost about 70 percent of its productivity,” Mr. Sam An said. “We can rescue only 30 percent of the total land.
“The province that has seen the most crop damage is Preah Vihear, which grows rice, cassava, soybean and banana,” he added.  
Other provinces that have seen armyworm damage include Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, Stung Treng and Tbong Kmom, which predominantly grow rice and cassava.
Although the amount of cropland damaged by armyworms is still low compared with the total harvesting land nationwide, Mr. Sam An said it would still affect agricultural productivity if action is not taken to remove the worms.
Song Saran, the president of Amru Rice, told Khmer Times that the consequences could be huge if the armyworms are not stopped from damaging crops.
“I think that the amount of crops damaged [by armyworms] is still low because only 20 to 25 percent of this year’s crop growing has been performed earlier in the harvesting season,” Mr. Saran said.
“If damage by armyworms continues into late July or August, there will be a big impact on agriculture, as about 70 percent of our crops will be growing,” Mr. Saran said.
He added that due to the damage caused by the prolonged drought, the country’s agriculture sector must avoid any further risks and cooperate and remove armyworms from farmland.
Heng Piseth, the director of the Tbong Kmom Provincial Agriculture Department, told Khmer Times that he was worried about local farmers’ abilities to cope with the financial cost of a lost crop due to armyworms.  
“We have rescued some croplands from armyworms, but we are worried about farmers having a lack of money to restore their crop after the loss,” Mr. Piseth said, adding that the most commonly damaged crops are rice and cassava.
Mr. Sam An outlined how farmers who sought loans from banks to cover the costs would face difficulty in earning enough money to service their loans.
Meanwhile Taing Vannaset, the Director of Banteay Meanchey’s Provincial Department of Agriculture, said the condition in his province were better now after about 20 hectares of cassava land was recorded as damaged by armyworms this year.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries could not estimate how many farmers lost crops to armyworms, but did say the ministry had sent officials to help and educate farmers about how to effectively kill armyworms.
Mr. Sam An pointed to the weather as the possible cause of the infestation.
“The armyworms are basically present in the rice and crop fields,” he said.
“But the temperature this year was higher than normal, making good conditions for an increase of armyworms,” he added.

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