A prolonged drought has caused damage to more than 14,000ha of rice fields in Siem Reap province, with more damages expected should the lack of rain continue.

Siem Reap provincial deputy governor Ly Samrith, who is in charge of disaster management for the province, said on August 25 that the drought could be due to the affects of climate change.

He said the drought has severely damaged more than 14,000ha of early-season rice crops in eight districts including some 1,000ha in Srei Snam, over 1,000ha in Kralanh, over 800ha in Puok district, over 1,000ha in Varin, and 6,600ha in Chi Kraeng district.

“2,800ha of short-term rice have been severely damaged in Chi Kraeng district. Farmers there still have hopes that if there is enough rainfall soon – as predicted by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology – they will be able to recover some of it,” Samrith said.

According to a report by the Siem Reap provincial agriculture department seen by The Post on August 25, of the 14,864ha affected by drought in the eight districts, 2,880ha appear to be lost completely due to the damage.

In Kratie province’s Chitr Borei district, Dar commune chief Seng Heng said climate change brought early seasonal rains this year, which confused many farmers who started planting short-term rice early in the season, expecting a bigger harvest as a result.

But their harvest did not live up to their expectations when a dry spell set in that lasted for almost a month that withered their rice crops due to a lack of rainfall or irrigation water.

“My family’s rice is no different from that of farmers in the whole of Dar commune. The rice was almost completely damaged because there was no rain. The rain finally came after it was damaged, so the rice has recovered some but I do not know if it can provide seeds for re-planting,” said Heng, who planted more than 10ha of early-season rice.

He said more than 300ha of rice in the commune was damaged by the drought, but horticultural crops such as cassava and cashews had no problems.

Youk Sithot, a 55-year-old farmer in the commune’s Dar village, said her 5ha cassava crop was growing well after heavy rains over the past few days, but it could not make up for more than 10ha of damaged rice crops.

According to a forecast released by the water resource ministry on August 24, provinces in the central lowlands, Dangrek Mountain range and the northeastern plateau of Cambodia are likely to receive moderate to heavy rainfall from August 25-31, including thunder and gusts of wind.