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Crop inundation feared

People negotiate a flooded road in Phnom Penh after a heavy downpour on the weekend.
People negotiate a flooded road in Phnom Penh after a heavy downpour on the weekend. Pha Lina

Crop inundation feared

As talk of El Niño-inspired droughts shaped much of the conversation ahead of this year’s late-blooming rainy season, recent torrential rains in some areas of the Kingdom have given way to new fears of crop inundation and damage.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology called on several provinces, including Stung Treng, Kratie and Kampong Cham, to harvest crops quickly as increased rainfall causes levels to rise dangerously high along many of the country’s main waterways.

The low pressure system has already triggered huge floods in nearby Myanmar and has been felt in Thailand and Laos.

“The rainy season has finally come, and if it didn’t come now, it would have been a disaster,” said Mekong River Commission technical adviser Ian Thomas.

“The question now is: when will be the monsoon become ‘right?’”

The late rainy season, Thomas said, has made crops such as rice particularly vulnerable since they require steady rainfall to flourish.

Whereas in previous years farmers would have several chances to get enough rain, this season has seen late-arriving violent storms come in sporadic bursts – a trend that could potentially hurt crop production across the country.

“My main worry now is storms,” said independent economic analyst Srey Chanthy. “Torrential rains without storms are OK. However, if there are storm rains – torrential rains with strong winds – then those could cause a lot of damage.”

But despite worries about this year’s irregular rainfall, it may be too premature to say whether it will have any noticeable effect.

“It is too early in the season to say whether the late arrival of the rains will have any measurable impact on crop production,” said FAO representative Nina Brandstrup.

Officials at the Ministries of Agriculture and Water Resources could not be reached.

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