If omens are to be believed, a royal cow and its appetitive whims spared the country from months of widespread disease and disaster yesterday and instead locked in a season of bumper corn yields.
The Kingdom’s annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony, in which chosen cows’ choice of food or drink is said to foretell Cambodia’s coming harvest fortunes, attracted thousands to a football field in Kampong Cham province yesterday.
Officials, including King Norodom Sihamoni, presided over the event, at which a selection of luxury plates containing corn, rice, beans and other crops as well as rice wine and water were laid out, with the rest left to fate.
The seven foods represent prosperity, while grass and wine represent disease and disaster.
After some deliberation, one of two cows selected yesterday to enjoy the feast settled on the corn, while the other headed off in the direction of a nearby field – which, tradition has it, doesn’t count for much.
Corn crops are now predicted to be stronger than the other grains on show, but even fortuneteller Korng Keng warned against getting over-excited.
“This is just an omen based on tradition as well as a declaration that the planting season is nearing,” he said.
Hean Vannhon, a department vice-general at the Ministry of Agriculture, also warned against putting too much faith in the royal cows. Last year, he said, the bovines’ choice of dish foretold widespread flooding, and affected how farmers planted.
“But we ended up experiencing drought,” he said. “We shouldn’t grow only corn.”
The ceremony is normally held on the lawn in front of the National Museum, land now occupied by the crematorium site built for King Father Norodom Sihanouk.