The upcoming drought will affect Cambodia’s dry-season rice production, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has said on Sunday.
The Mekong River Commission announced last week that Cambodia and the other Lower Mekong River Basin countries – Thailand, Laos and Vietnam – would suffer severe drought from now until January.
The government issued a circular calling on rice farmers to only plant one crop of rice during the 2019-2020 dry season to avert water shortages.
Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) vice-president Chan Sokheang said the drought “will affect dry season paddy production and will affect our exports”.
He said the CRF will encourage planting the crop in non-affected areas to boost the Kingdom’s exports.
“We will try to work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology to determine which areas paddy can be grown in,” he said.
The ministry’s secretary-general Srey Vuthy told The Post on Sunday that it had ordered the provincial Agriculture Departments of to carry out water conservation measures and instructed farmers to grow crops other than paddy.
“The ministry, following the Royal Government’s directive, has provided farmers [in affected areas with] techniques [to grow] vegetables, promoting the use of drip irrigation,” he said.
Paddy output across the country may decline by an estimated 10.7 million tonnes for the 2019-2020 crop harvests, he said.
“The total output of paddy will fall by 1.73 per cent. Of that, dry season paddy may fall 5.42 per cent from last year, with rainy season paddy declining by about 0.53 per cent.”
Late last month, CRF president Song Saran expressed the federation’s commitment to exporting one million tonnes of milled rice by 2022 after the government initially set the target for 2015 – back in August 2010.
“To meet export demand, we have a special interest rate credit package of $200 million to purchase rice during the harvest season,” he said, adding that the available funds can buy around 500,000 tonnes of paddy – particularly jasmine varieties – during the season.
However, Sokheang said the drought would not affect the export target.
“In the medium term, it will not affect the one million tonne export target because we have enough time to achieve it.”
A CRF report says the Kingdom exported 398,586 tonnes of rice in the first nine months of this year, up 2.3 per cent from the same period last year, or 389,264 tonnes.
Rice shipments to China stood at 157,793 tonnes during the period. This was up more than 44 per cent year-on-year. But exports to Europe fell to 135,471 tonnes, or down nearly 30 per cent.
The CRF expects that Cambodian rice exports to international markets this year will be between 650,000 and 750,000 tonnes, which is a slight increase on last year.