Rice harvests expected to be down as much as 35 percent in some districts as farmers say they will not have enough to eat during the year
Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A framer in Kratie province stands in front of his home.
RICE farmers in Kratie province say severe drought in the early planting season will dramatically reduce crop yields this year, even threatening farmers' personal rice stores.
Youk Sat, 38, a farmer from Da village, said yields this year may not be enough to supply food for his family until the next harvest, as delays in planting due to drought have affected the growth of rice seedlings.
"I am very worried that I will lack rice to eat in the middle of the year," he said.
The farmer, with six children and no other source of income, said each year he averages about 78 sacks of unhusked rice, at about 50 kilograms of rice per sack, but this year he expects only about 40 sacks.
"Last year, I had enough rice to eat and also earned 2 million riels (about US$500) from selling my surplus rice," he said. "It is much more serious this year compared with previous years."
Seng Moeurn, 27, also a farmer from Da village, expected only 15 sacks of rice from this year's harvest but said her family needs at least 30 sacks to last the year.
The drought has affected rice farmers throughout the province.
Sras Mani, chief of Kapo village, said about 80 percent of the 464 families in his village could face shortages in rice crops this year.
Nhean Puyphirun, O'Russei commune chief in Kratie district, said five villages in the commune - comprising about 60 percent of the 2,234 families in the commune - feared severe rice shortages.
"People throughout the commune and throughout the district are worried about the harvest this year," she said. "Many families could face severe food shortages by the middle of the year."
She added that farmers this year were not prepared for unusual shifts in climate this year.
"We had no rain in the early planting season, but now the harvesting season has come, there is too much rain that threatens to destroy rainy season crops and the dry season crops that farmers have now begun to plant," she said.
Sam Tra, O'Russei commune deputy chief, said out of the commune's 843 hectares of rainy season rice, 16 hectares have been damaged by drought and another 45 hectares have flooded.
"In general, the rice crop this year will not be good," he said.
Kapo village chief Sras Mani said rice farmers' livelihoods "depend on the rain".
"We have no irrigation system for the rainy season rice. We only have irrigation for the dry season rice," he said.