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Rain-swollen Mekong could damage crops: Ministry

Chea Vannak / Khmer Times Share:
Many areas around the country have flooded this week. Supplied

Heavy downpours in Thailand and Lao have led to high water levels in the upper Mekong River, with Cambodian authorities warning farmers of possible floods over the weekend that may destroy crops, and urging them to do the necessary preparations.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology issued a statement this week to warn farmers in provinces along the Mekong River of rising water levels, urging them to harvest crops before they are damaged by rising tides.

“Farmers who live and plant crops in Stung Treng, Kratie, Tbong Khmum and Kampong Cham provinces along the waterway are urged to quickly harvest their produce before the onset of floods,” Lim Keanhor, the Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology said.

According to the ministry, Cambodia is now under a low-pressure system, which will bring heavy rains until next week. The ministry warned that even provinces that are not intersected by the Mekong River may suffer floods.

There are no reports so far of damaged fields as a result of flooding.

Kim Savoeun, director of the Agriculture Department in Kampong Cham, one of the biggest provinces in terms of agricultural output, said yesterday that some areas along the Mekong in the province were submerged but that no agricultural land has been affected.

“At the moment, there have not been any material damages caused by flooding,” Mr Savoeun said, explaining that they are now preparing new seeds that will be made available to farmers in case forecast floods hit agricultural fields.

Maize was the most affected crop by floods in previous years, Mr Savoeun said.

“Kampong Cham has many agricultural areas located near the Mekong River, so farmers are resilient to natural phenomena like floods and droughts. If authorities prepare and take the necessary precautions, I think the damage to fields will be minimal and kept under control,” he said.

Kampot province remains in alert after having been hit by heavy rains in recent weeks, but local authorities say agricultural lands have so far been spared damages.

Recent downpours have caused some areas in the province to be partially submerged, said Chan Rithy, director of Kampot’s Agricultural Department.

“Fortunately, the floods have only affected areas close to the river. They haven’t reached agricultural fields,” Mr Rithy said. “However, we remain vigilant and on alert.”

Seasonal floods are a common occurrence in the Kingdom, particularly in the northern provinces, damaging not only agricultural fields, but also infrastructure, people’s houses and cattle.

Authorities in Banteay Meanchey, a major province in terms of rice production, also said crops have not yet been hit by floods.

“We don’t think the floods will reach agricultural areas, so we are not worried at the moment,” Pang Vannasetha, director of the provincial department of agriculture, said.

He added that rice is generally the crop worst hit by the floods.

Moul Sarith, secretary general of the Cambodia Rice Federation, said his association is concerned about the flood forecasts, and added that they are working closely with local authorities to help farmers prepare for rising water levels.

“We still don’t have any news of actual damage to crops, but we are working closely with farmers to help them in case the floods occur,” Mr Sarith said.

“Our exports of milled rice will be harmed if paddy fields are hit,” Mr Sarith said, calling on relevant authorities to manage irrigation systems appropriately to avoid damages to rice fields if flooding occurs.

According to a report from the ministry, roughly 78 percent of all land nationwide used for growing rice has already been cultivated, equalling more than 1,950,000 hectares.

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