Floods and drought are now the major problems hitting farmers and affecting the Kingdom’s food security and exports after drought left much land in the Northwest dry and cracked.
Song Saran, president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), told Khmer Times that from May to August, there is severe impact from climate change to the Cambodian dry paddy season especially Sen Kro Ob and IR varieties.
He added that according to the survey by the CRF with its members to more than 100 agriculture cooperatives, it showed that 30 to 40 percent of their dry seasonal paddy was affected by drought and they have to replant the paddy. The remaining 60 percent was recovered but the yield dropped from four to three tonnes. Therefore, the harvest season this year will be lower and delayed until mid-October or November.
“The areas affected by drought are Kampong Thom, Battambang, Kampong Cham, Banteay Meanchey, with some slight impact in Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Speu and Takeo,” Saran said. He added that the lower reaches of the Mekong River are also a concern for the farmers along Tonle Sap Lake.
Saran added that generally the Sen Kro Ob variety was harvested in mid-July, but now fewer farmers are harvesting because their crops were damaged or some can harvest but the quality and yield are lower.
He said that the harvest will be delayed for about two months because the farmers now have to replant the paddy, so they will harvest it in October and November.
“We found flooding in September and October is also a major issue for farmers. It is a concern because we have a market but no paddy for processing to export. In August, we project exports will drop around 30 percent and 20 percent in September,” he said.
“Some 60 percent of the farmers can rehabilitate their paddy and can slowly harvest, but for those who have to replant, they will harvest their paddy in mid-September and the full harvest will be mid-October or November. Therefore, there is no growth in exports in August or September,” he added.
Kong Kea, director of the Department of Rice Crop from the General Directorate of Agriculture, at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), agreed there was damage to the paddy. However, it was only in some areas across the country. He said the paddy yield in Takeo, Kampong Speu, Kampot and Pursat province are good. Kea added that the export of paddy to Vietnam is still normal, especially through Prey Veng province, because there is a market and farmers get a high price of paddy from 970 riels a kilogramme (kg) for the OM and IR504-04 varieties and 1,200 riels/kg for the Sen Kra Ob variety. “Food security is not much affected because the farmers are cultivating and harvesting in November this year,” he added.
However, Mak Soeun, deputy director of MAFF’s General Directorate of Agriculture, told Khmer Times that there was not much effect on dry season paddy because mostly has access to irrigation systems so although there is drought, farmers still produce yields. “The drought has hit some areas, but in some areas farmers are harvesting up to today and starting to plant the second round,” Soeun added. “Mostly, the impact is in the Northwestern provinces such as Banteay Meanchey, where 6,000 hectares were damaged. This has now recovered because there is rain,” he said.
As of Aug 14, the harvest yield from 116,752 hectares was 481,448 tonnes. It was mostly affected by the drought while the flooding hit just 20 hectares in Kep province. The ministry rehabilitated this. “Mostly, drought affects the paddy and this is mostly in the western provinces of the Kingdom such as Banteay Meanchey.
According to the report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Cambodia exported 438,829 tonnes of rice as of Aug 12. It said that more than 2.43 million hectares of farmland were cultivated as of that date.