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Drought lowers paddy yields

Drought lowers paddy yields

Rice production was badly affected by drought last year, dashing hopes of obtaining

self sufficiency, new figures released by the Ministry of Agriculture show.

Near final estimates put total production during the main wet season in 1993 at 1.92

million tonnes, down nearly 150,000 tonnes on the 1992 figure of 2.07 million tonnes.

The latest estimate of the country's rice deficit for the year is 180,000 tonnes,

said Kith Seng, deputy director of the ministry's Department of Planning.

The government is expected to rely on international aid to meet the shortfall.

He said: "The figures are disappointing. Early in the season we had been hopeful

of obtaining a good harvest. But some areas were too dry for that and others were

affected by flooding."

Seng said the low yield together with higher rice prices in neighboring countries

had pushed up market rates for paddy to 300 riel per kg compared to 200 riel per

kg at this time last year. Prices are expected to climb still further towards a traditional

peak in August as stocks are depleted prior to the this year's wet season harvest.

Ministry figures put average crop yields last year at 1.18 tonne per hectare, down

on the 1992 figure of 1.38.

Harvesting is nearly complete and is expected to take place on 1.628 million hectares

of 1.697 million planted.

Revolution and civil war has prevented the Kingdom from being self sufficient in

rice since the 1960s, when it was a net exporter to the tune of 250,000 to 400,000

tonnes per year.

Then up to 2.5 million hectares were planted but heavy use of land mines and the

destruction of irrigation systems has severely reduced the area available for cultivation.

Efforts are being made to increase the dry season crop. But the Ministry figures

show that the hectarage planted is only one tenth of that in the wet season due to

lack of irrigation and local strains of rice maturing only in monsoon months.

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