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Heavy rain brings more misery to industry

Sorn Sarath / Khmer Times Share:
Soldiers helping a farmer in harvesting paddy affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province. Supplied

Hard on the heels of the hardship of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has left hundreds of thousands unemployed in the manufacturing and tourism sector, Cambodia’s industry is now struggling with the challenge of heavy flooding, which is particularly harming the  agriculture sector.

Veng Sakhon, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), said the ministry was in charge of rehabilitating the sector but the task was still at an early stage.

He said the ministry has yet to estimate the financial damage.

However, he added:  “Generally it will not affect the macro economy but farmers who have been affected by the floods, especially smallholders, will suffer because they will lose yet more income,” he said.

He said that so far the flood impact has been only 1.6 percent of the total cultivated area of 2.75 million hectares – equivalent to just more than 30,000 hectares.

“Yes, the partial impact happens every year which is not a big concern. In 2019, floods destroyed up to 5 per cent of paddies and we expect this year to be lower than last year, because a flooded paddy for one week would not be damaged,” he said, adding that the ministry has enough seeds to distribute to farmers, for both paddies and other crops.

Flash floods have been hitting Battambang, Pursat, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear, Kampong Speu, Stung Treng, and Siem Reap provinces by inundating houses, schools, administrative offices and other infrastructure, as well as rice fields.

The negative impact on the agriculture sector would be another problem facing the  government already struggling to help people, including farmers with debts caused by the pandemic.

Kaing Tongngy, a spokesperson for the Cambodia Microfinance Association (CMA), said that it is too early to evaluate the impact of flooding on farmers’ repayments. However, he said normally microfinance institutions (MFIs) have their own policies for supporting their clients.

“MFIs usually begin with an impact evaluation of the affected clients and they will discuss solutions with them. The whole MFI sector believes their success is down to the success of their clients, who are their long-term partners,” he said.

According to Tongngy, agriculture accounts for about 20 per cent of the total loan portfolio in the microfinance sector.

He said so far CMA’s 103 members have received more than 270,000 loan restructure requests and 260,000 of them have been approved with a total loan value of $1,270 billion.

PRASAC MFI Executive Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer Say Sony said that even though these are hard times, his company will not tighten any conditions on clients.

“We strongly support our clients during these hard times by carrying on lending not only to existing clients but also to new clients such as SMEs (small and medium enterprises),” he said, adding that as of September, PRASAC’s outstanding loans were $2,862 billion, an increase of $360 million.

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