The annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony turned up a less than promising outlook for the next harvest season on the weekend, though some farmers remain sceptical of the traditional forecast.
The ceremony, held on Saturday in Kandal province’s Takhmao town, marks the beginning of the agricultural production and rainy seasons. The royal oxen, which are charged with the official job of forecasting the upcoming harvest, this year ate only a little bit of corn, rice and beans, which tradition says equates to just a “fairly good” prediction and far from the excellent forecast farmers had been hoping for.
“I also fear that the harvest will not be so good this year because of bugs or flooding,” Nem Kourn, a rice farmer from Battambang province, said.
But Kourn did not take the traditional forecast as a given. He said in his experience the royal prediction has proved accurate 60 per cent of the time.
Meas Leun, a corn farmer in Pailin, said she too wasn’t sold on the outlook.
“I will be ready for risks happening to my crops throughout the year,” she said. “Though the prediction of a good harvest can be good news for farmers, getting higher prices for their harvested crops is even better news.”
Sok Chamroeun, executive director of Khmer Farmers Association, said that though the forecast helps farmers to prepare for the worst, having proper irrigation systems in place was the way to best mitigate risks.
“The government should also look in to finding more markets for farmers,” he said.
Pich Romnea, deputy director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ paddy rice production department, said he expected yields this year to be similar to those of last season’s crops.
“The ministry is ready to take measure for any risks including bugs, flood and drought,” he said.
Figures from the Ministry of Agriculture shows last year’s total paddy rice production reached 7.2 million tonnes.
Meanwhile, production of corn, bean, sweet potato and other vegetables reached 8.6 million tonnes.