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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - $12 million rescue package deployed to fight drought

$12 million rescue package deployed to fight drought

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Yem Bunlong looks across a drought-ravaged paddy in Takeo province around this time last year.

Dry weather has already afflicted large tracts of the country, but government meteorologists say rains will come in September

I believe that we can save the drought-stricken rice crop.

The government has already activated a $12 million emergency package to help farmers afflicted by a drought taking hold across the country, a Finance Ministry official said Tuesday.

"We hope that through this measure, our agricultural sector will still be able to achieve high yields and we will be able to ameliorate declines in the living standards of our farmers," Kong Vibol, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, told the National Assembly.
The money would be used to irrigate rice fields hit hardest by the drought, he said.

Around 42,414 hectares of the 2.26 million hectares planted with rice this year had been hit by drought by August 12, and 517 hectares of rice crops had been destroyed, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Drought had affected 13,706 hectares of rice paddy in Battambang province, 12,379 hectares in Pursat province, 8,527 hectares in Prey Veng province, 5,528 hectares in Kandal province, 2,502 hectares in Takeo province and 172 hectares in Kampong Thom province, the ministry said.

Ministry of Agriculture Secretary of State Teng Lao said the ministry and provincial authorities have already deployed resources to help farmers save their rice crops, but that damage remained unavoidable in some areas.

"I believe that we can save the drought-stricken rice crop if the disaster does not last long because this year our farmers grew 'light' rice, which takes a shorter time to be ready for harvest than 'heavy' rice", Teng Lao said.

Seth Vannareth, director of the Meteorology Department at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said the drought would not last long, and that rain would soon fall.

"Cambodia has lacked rainfall this year, as you can see, but from September onwards the problem will vanish," he said.

Drought is a particular problem for Cambodia, as the proportion of land irrigated is among the lowest in the region. That means most areas produce only one crop a year, during the wet season.

Agriculture generated around 29 percent of gross domestic product in 2007, and 59 percent of the population relies on the sector for their livelihood, according to the World Bank.

Output has been growing at 4.4 percent per year over the past decade, lagging other sectors of the economy but outpacing neighbouring Laos and Vietnam, whose agricultural sectors grew 3.9 and 4 percent, respectively, over the period.

Rice covered 2.6 million hectares in 2007, accounting for two-thirds of arable land and 90 percent of cultivated land, and production grew from 3.4 million to 6.8 million tons from 1997 to 2007, according to the UN Development Programme.

Yields are low at around 2.6 tons per hectare, compared to a regional average between 3.5 and 4 tonnes per hectare, the World Bank has said.

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