TROPICAL Asia’s rice yields are at risk because of climate change, as evidence suggests higher temperatures have already cut growth rates as much as 20 percent in some areas, according the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation.
A report produced by the body analysed six years’ worth of data from 227 sites in Asia, including in Thailand and southern Vietnam.
“Temperature trends are becoming more influential [on rice yields],” the report said.
“Looking ahead, they imply a net negative impact on yield from moderate warming in coming decades.”
Sar Ratha, the owner of a Battambang province rice mill, agreed yesterday that higher-than-average temperatures that could come with climate change made rice-growing difficult in the Kingdom.
“Rice yields decline with increased temperatures,” he said. “In cooler weather, farmers can grow more rice with less chemical fertiliser.”
Sar Ratha said the year to date had seen yields decline, and blamed the phenomenon partly on hot weather.
Cambodian Economic Association director Chan Sophal estimated at least 50 percent of Cambodians were dependant on agriculture, and said that any decrease in rice yields would significantly affect the Kingdom’s economy.
“There can be droughts and floods, but climate change could makes things worse,” he said, but he emphasised that the association had not directly studied the issue.
Warmer weather could affect both buyers and sellers of Cambodia’s “white gold”, said Yun Viden, owner of Tong Viden rice mill in Battambang province.
“Every year the weather becomes hotter, both sides will be affected.
“Farmers will have less to sell, and buyers will face higher prices,” he said.
He said that the problem could affect the Kingdom’s economy if the population grows further when crop yields are in decline.
The government is currently trying to improve rice yields to help fuel exports, by improving infrastructure and irrigation systems.
Cambodia aims to produce as much as 15 million tonnes of paddy by 2015 Next week, the government is scheduled to produce its updated rice policy, as the Kingdom attempts to transform itself into a regional player on the rice market.