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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Floods hurt sugarcane farmers

Floods hurt sugarcane farmers

With light rain falling on a cold August morning, Kim Phal dove into two meters

of water to harvest his sugarcane crop. He is frustrated: in a repeat of last

year, the rising waters of the Mekong flooded his fields.

"We are

suffering again from the floods this year," he said, plucking drowning insects

from his face. "The water has risen very fast. I expect we will lose more than

half our crop this year."

Phal lives in Koki Thom village, Kandal

province. His village is about 50 kilometers east of Phnom Penh and is one of

many which suffered from flooding last year. This year the floods have

returned.

He predicted that this year's floods would cost him even more.

Last year he lost almost 2 million riels, but he expects this year to lose 3

million riels ($770) from his holding of 2,250 square meters.

"You know,

this business depends on the favor of the water," he said. "If the floods come

again next year, we will not be able to eat."

Phal is not alone in his

troubles: sugarcane is one of Koki Thom's main products. Cane is used throughout

Cambodia, mainly for making the sweet juice found in every town and village.

The floods have forced farmers to harvest their sugarcane early, which

means lower prices for cane farmers in an already difficult time. Villagers told

the Post that a bundle of twelve sticks of sugarcane normally sells for between

2,500 and 3,000 riel. The floods have cut the price to around 700

riel.

Min Nhor, who is 66, started growing sugarcane in the early 1980s.

Standing next to his pile of harvested cane, he complained that he has again

lost money on his crop.

"The buyers give us the cheapest price because

the sugarcane is in surplus," he said.

He said that the buyers' trucks

wait at the nearby national road. Farmers take their produce there by boat or ox

cart, but the price is heavily dependent on how much cane is for sale elsewhere.

The floodwaters have coated the cane with black algae, which, says Nhor, leads

the buyers to pay even less.

The problems look set to continue, even

after the floods recede: farmers without sugarcane seed need to invest around

3.4 million riel to plant one hectare. The lack of a decent crop this year and a

shortage of suitable planting seed has Phal worried that he will be unable to

farm next year.

"I don't know what I will do next season," he said

dejectedly. "I just don't know how I will get the money to buy seeds."

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