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PM urges farmers to diversify crops amid shortage of water

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Farmers grow rice in a field in Kampong Speu province. Prime Minister Hun Sen urges farmers to switch to crops resilient to a shortage of water, such as sugar cane, to shield themselves from price drops and fluctuating yields during the dry season. TANG CHHIN SOTHY/afp

PM urges farmers to diversify crops amid shortage of water

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday called for farmers to diversify beyond rice during the dry season, amid meteorologists’ warnings that a decline in water levels due to drought will adversely impact output and prices.

The prime minister urged farmers to switch to crops resilient to a shortage of water, such as sugarcane, to shield themselves from price drops and fluctuating yields during the dry season.

“According to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, we are approaching the harvests at the end of the rainy season. So far, we have harvested two million hectares of paddy fields out of a total of 2.7 million hectares.

“I hope that rice yields in the rainy season will not be affected by a shortage of water. However, paddy fields will face a shortage of water during the dry season – that’s why I issued a directive to farmers last week to grow rice only once during the dry season and then switch to another crop,” Hun Sen said.

In a statement released last week, the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) said the poor condition of paddy fields due to water shortages in some areas had affected prices.

It added that certain parts of Pursat province that produced phkma malis (jasmine) and somali rice had grown tough grains lacking aroma “that consumers cannot accept”.

Rice crops in Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces, the statement said, had also struggled due to poor quality paddies and disease.

However, some areas in Kampong Speu, Takeo, Kampot and Kandal provinces yielded quality crops that demanded high prices.

CRF secretary-general Lun Yeng told The Post on Wednesday that the drop in quality was due to drought.

“The price of the good quality crops – phkma malis and phka romduol – is the same as last year, around 1,200 riel ($0.30) per kilogramme, while sen kra op rice costs 1,000 riel ($0.24).

“Rice millers did not want to lower the price of rice, but [they had no choice] because of the poor quality of the crop,” Yeng said.

Hun Sen said that while the government had called on millers not to lower the price of rice, it did not set prices as Cambodia is a free-market economy.

The prime minister advised farmers in areas suffering from water shortages to switch from rice to crops that would ensure better yields and bring higher prices.

A Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries report showed that in the first 11 months of this year, rice exports to the international market totalled 514,149 tonnes – an increase of 3.4 per cent on the same period last year.

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