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Drought improves in B’bang; concerns remain

Despite improving drought-like conditions in Battambang province, farmers and rice millers alike are still concerned about yield and quality levels of rice in one of the country's leading rice-producing regions.

In last month’s report on the drought situation from the Agriculture Ministry, Battambang, along with Banteay Meanchey, accounted for around two-thirds of drought-affected areas, totalling 124,300 hectares out of 182,870 hectares of affected rice plants.

However, Chhim Vichra, director of the Provincial Agriculture Department in Battambang, said the province had seen some rain in the last few days and that the situation was improving.

“If the rain continues for the next few months, I think it will be better. It’s difficult to help the areas that are far from the main source of water if there is no rain.”

The impacted area dropped from 56,780 hectares in Battambang last month to 37,420 hectares as of Tuesday, according to Vichra, who added that some areas were still not seeing much rain.

Kann Kunthy, CEO of rice miller Brico in Battambang, said a drought-like situation could affect the quality of the rice being produced, and that shortages will lead to higher prices – an issue Cambodia is already having to deal with in the international market.

“The higher price doesn’t mean the farmer gets more benefits, because they get less income as they are spending more on water pumps and pesticides,” Kunthy said.

“Millers also get impacted by low-quality rice because it is difficult to sell.”

Phan Saing, a 54-year-old farmer in Battambang province’s Borel district, said that his 10-hectare rice field did not have water for a month and 50 per cent of his rice field was damaged, given that his farm is away from any irrigation system.

“We do not have any water system, even a canal or pond,” he said This year’s figures mark a sharp uptick from the 116,129 hectares hurt by a lack of rain during the 2014 wet season.

In Pursat – the third worst affected province – Lay Viseth, director of Pursat’s Agriculture Department, said the province was still facing issues of drought.

“We have two irrigation systems. It helps some areas but they cannot reach so much because we lack the source of water,” Viseth said.

The Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday that while the drought situation hasn’t changed much from the last report, released on August 26, an updated national report on the current situation is yet to be released.

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