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Battambang districts facing drought

More than 1,000 families across four districts of Battambang face the prospect of losing their rice crop this year if rain does not arrive by the end of next week, the director of the province’s department of agriculture said yesterday.

“If the rain does not arrive within one week, rice crops will be destroyed in areas of four districts,” Cheam Chansophorn said.

About 10,000 hectares of rice fields are threatened so far, he said. The four districts already facing severe drought in some communes are Kors Kralor, Moung Russei, Thma Koul and Rokak Tivea.

More families in the province could be at risk if the rain fails to arrive soon because they are waiting to transplant paddy to their fields, Cheam Chansophorn said.

About 70 percent of the province’s estimated 250,000 hectares of rice fields has already been cultivated, but farmers are waiting for more rain before they transplant paddy to the remaining 75,000 hectares, he said.

Most farming families rely on a single rice crop per year. A lack of irrigation systems can leave them entirely dependent on increasingly erratic rainfall patterns. Drought has hit several provinces over the last decade, most recently Kampong Speu in 2009.

Ngin Chhay, chief of the rice department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said it was too early to determine how many provinces would be affected by drought this year. Most areas facing drought this year are in Battambang, he said.

Cheam Chansophorn said that corn plantations in Battambang province were also at risk of drought.

Ngin Chhay said that at the national level rice production was unlikely to be reduced due to droughts in some districts. However, the ministry was carefully monitoring rainfall and would not make a forecast for production levels until next month.



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