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Rubber planting threatened

Rubber planting threatened

Low rainfall and high petrol prices impact Cambodia’s cash crop plantations.

RUBBER farms are falling below planting targets this year because of a rise in oil prices and extreme heat conditions, industry representatives have said.

The president of the 14-member Vietnamese Rubber Enterprise Federation (VREF), Leng Rithy, said the group’s Cambodian rubber farms were already about 10 percent off plantation targets this year with only 18,000 hectares of trees put in the ground.

He said oil price increases and rising temperatures have hampered land-clearing efforts on concessions.

Oil price increased from 4,550 riels to 4,700 per litre in April, according to Ministry of Commerce data, raising the cost of operating machinery needed to clear land in order to plant the lucrative crop.

In February, VREF, whose member companies have received about 100,000 hectares of economic concession land from the Cambodian government, said it would invest US$55 million to grow rubber on 20,000 hectares in Kampong Thom, Kratie, Stung Treng, Ratanakiri and Preah Vihear provinces this year.

According to information provided by the federation, some of the provinces are below target, and the 1,000-hectare planting slated for Preah Vihear province was never realised.

“We still hope to be able to grow rubber on all economic concession land provided to us by the government,” Leng Rithy said Tuesday.

Mork Kim Hong, president of the Cambodian Rubber Association, said the damage done by the rising oil price and heat has not only affected production of one of Cambodia’s primary exports, but also harmed jobs, forcing some land-clearing workers out of work, he said.

His company in Kampong Cham province, Chub Rubber Plantation, has planted no rubber trees this year, compared to 200 hectares by this time in 2009.

“I think it is going to be very difficult to succeed in growing rubber this year because the level of rainfall this year was much lower than that of last year,” he said.

Last month’s rainfall was only 180mm, almost half the 300mm recorded in April 2009. Rubber trees normally need about 250mm of rain to successfully grow, said Mork Kim Hong.

Data relating to the Kingdom’s rubber plantations will be released in July, according to Ly Phalla, director general of the Department of Cambodian Rubber.

“Our main responsibility at the moment is to study to find rubber species which can endure changing weather so that our plantations can be productive,” he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported that in 2009, Cambodia grew 24,300 hectares of rubber trees.

Leng Rithy said VREF is planning to grow 32,000 hectares of rubber trees next year, a figure that exceeds its original plan by 2,000 hectares. He said this would be made possible by starting land-clearing activities earlier than planned, probably by the end of this year.

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