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Appeal for donated rice

" Cambodia has appealed to international

donors for help in meeting a 250,000 ton shortfall of rice due to drought

and insect damage, government officials said on Aug 17.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia would like to appeal to the international

community and non-governmental organizations...to donate as much rice as

possible in order to help the people," the government said in a statement

isued on Monday.

"We need about 250,000 tons of rice to give directly to the people

who are lacking food," senior Ministry of Agriculture official Lim

Keanhor told Reuters earlier.

"Some areas have suffered drought, some areas have been flooded and

in some areas insects have destroyed the farmers' rice plants," he

said.

Rains arrived late in many parts of the country this June-October wet season

and outbreaks of army worms and brown plant-hoppers have also caused damage

in some areas.

Another agriculture expert said it was still too early to guage the true

extent of the problem but good rains over the next few weeks were crucial.

"If there's no rain by the end of this month then farmers will have

their second poor harvest in a year," said Ken Noah Davies, acting

country director of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP).

"By the end of August we should be able to say if we face a serious

problem," he said.

Davies said his staff had recently completed a survey of five central provinces

and apart from some districts in southeastern Prey Veng province, had found

no need yet for emergency assistance.

"Apart from Prey Veng, in all other areas they were not in such trouble

that it was warranted to include them in food-for-work programmes at this

time," Davies said.

"People are coping, but if they have to replant they might not have

the seed," he said.

In June the WFP found some 20,000 people in dire need of rice in Prey Veng

province, in addition to about 200,000 already involved in a food- for-work

programme in the province.

Harvests in both Cambodia and southern Vietnam were hit by drought late

last year and early this year brought on by the El Nino weather pattern.

Compounding the problem for Cambodia were higher than normal levels of rice

exports to Vietnam, where traders were scrambling to meet export obligations.

Vietnam has also imposed a limited ban on fresh rice export contracts from

Aug 15 to ensure food security and stabilise food prices.

In June the Cambodian government approved the import of at least 50,000

tons of rice in an atempt to counter crop shortfalls and high prices.

Cambodia produced some 3.2 million tons of rice in the 1997-98 season, slightly

less than the previous year, according to ministry of agriculture estimates.

Some 2.6 million tons was produced in the last wet season and more than

600,000 tons in the dry season, the ministry estimates showed-Reuters.

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