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Fishing for Kandal sugarcane

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Sok Chandy, 25, stands waist deep in flood waters while harvesting sugarcane Koki Thom commune, in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district on Sunday. Photo by: Heng Chivoan

CAMBODIAN farmers may be flocking to grow sugar cane, but some in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district have seen profits all but washed away.

Rising floodwaters from the Mekong river have forced many area farmers to harvest their crops early, or risk losing the entire harvest.

Phoung Sath, a farmer in the district’s Koki Thom commune, said his sugar cane fields had been underwater for 14 days. He reckons he has five days to harvest the entire crop before it’s lost.

“This year the river went sharply up, flooding my sugarcane fields almost completely and forcing me to harvest them, and sell them at a cheaper price,” he said.

“My family depends completely on sugar cane stalks to support the living standard and for children to go to school,”

Koki Thom commune chief Nuth Sa Un said its farmers had planted 140 hectares of land with sugar cane this year, an increase on last year’s 100 hectares.

“However, this year the water went up higher than last year, affecting the farmers’ crops,” he said.

Farmers and experts also say that prices for the product have been depressed compared to last year, due in part to excess supply.

In 2010, Phoung Sath said one bundle of sugarcane stocks fetched between 4000 and 6000 riel, but this year prices are between 500 and 3000 riel.

Other farmers in the commune explained  that they were concerned about the loss of their livelihoods.

Farmer Soun Srey Mom, 40, said she had spent about $1000 planting sugarcane on one hectare of land, but was unlikely to recoup her expen-ses because of the floods and lower sugarcane prices.

“I am very worried with the price of sugar cane decreasing but all other goods increasing,” she said. “The revenue from selling sugarcane stalks will not be enough to support living.”

Pov Try, a middleman who buys sugarcane from the farmers in Koki Thom commune and sells it at Phnom Penh’s Damkor market, said the crop was not as lucrative as last year’s.

Too much rain had reduced the quality of the harvest, and  there was a surplus of the crop this year, resulting in downward prices, he said.

“The cane the farmers grow is for eating, so when there’s too much cane available at the market, the price goes down,” Pov Try said.

Farmers had flocked to grow sugarcane in part due to past high prices, CEDAC president Yang Saing Koma said.

Keo Sothea, 37, said she had borrowed from the bank to plant sugarcane on half a hectare of land.

“Ï am very worried about my income this year,” she said.

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