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Mines hamper rice production

L ANDMINES are seriously disrupting rice production in Cambodia, according to a

new report by Cambodia IRRI and the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), which

found that 55,000 hectares of rice fields are out of use because of

mines.

The researchers - including Harry Nesbitt of IRRI and Navuth Chhay

of CMAC - conducted their study using satellite imagery, topographical maps and

overlaying these with mine-filled locations provided by CMAC.

They found

that most of the mined rice-growing areas are located within Banteay Meanchay,

Battambang and Siem Riep provinces.

"A cessation of war and the

improvement in the security of isolated areas would see a rapid expansion of

rice production in Cambodia, both through the utilization of marginal farming

land and by the adoption of more modern and sustainable farming techniques," the

report concludes.

"Clearing 55,000 hectares of mine-fields would assist

this process considerably."

The study notes that at the current rate of

mine clearance, it would take CMAC 30,000 years to clear Cambodia of landmines,

which affect 300,000 hectares. Most of these minefields are in

difficult-to-clear forest areas.

In the mid-1960s, Cambodia was exporting

over 500,000 milled tons of rice a year, and "showed potential for increasing

production even further," the study says. But many more hecatares were being

cultivated then. More than 2.5 million hectares of rice was grown a year in the

mid-1960s, compared to 1.9 million hectares today. Not all the shrinkage is due

to mines. Some former rice fields have been returned to forest land and some

deepwater and rain fed areas are not being cultivated.

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