The Ministry of Water and Meteorology has warned farmers of a rainfall shortage forecast to last at least another month, with average daily temperatures also forecast to remain above average.
The announcement, issued on Monday, says that up until mid-July Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Speu, Takeo, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Tbong Khmom, Kampong Cham, Pursat, Battambang, Pailin, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap and Odor Meanchey provinces will face temperatures of up to 37 degrees Celsius with little to average rainfall.
The letter warns rice farmers to plan ahead.
“Be wise and make reservoirs for water,” is states.
Ngen Chhay, director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s rice seedling department, said the forecast for the first weeks of the rainy season, which started May 20, looks dry for all provinces listed above.
“Water is important for rice planting in the rainy season. This is the fragrance rice season, and the fragrance rice needs more water to grow,” he said.
Despite his concerns, Chhay said the current outlook is unlikely to result in a decrease in rice production.
But Khem Sophana, project adviser to CEDAC, a local agriculture organisation, said while more than 2,000 canals snake across the country, only about 10 per cent can be used practically, and that farmers without access to those water sources will be hit hardest by the early rainfall shortage.
“Rice planting for this rainy season will be delayed in some areas where there is not enough water [and] it will influence rice production,” he said.
Prak Nay, a rice farmer in Battambang province, said the majority of farmers in his community still depend heavily on natural rainfall even when their fields are located close to tributaries.
“I have seen farmers quit because the price of selling paddy rice cannot off-set their cost of production,” Nay added, citing costs associated with pumping water in from nearby rivers or streams.
Cambodia’s main rice crop production season, known as the rainy season, typically begins in June and can last up until February. The dry season runs between November and April.