Dry-season rice cultivation has already exceeded the amount planned by more than a third, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

According to the ministry’s March 10 report seen by The Post on March 14, a total of 637,165ha – equivalent to a whopping 137.83 per cent of the planned 462,280ha – had been cultivated.

Agriculture minister Veng Sokhon said in the report that by the end of February, 1,148,075 tonnes of rice had been harvested, with an average yield of 4.5 tonne per hectare.

He urged all units of the municipal and provincial agriculture departments to promote the cultivation of rice and other crops according to the quantities that had been planned. This was especially crucial in areas with limited irrigation and water storage facilities.

“All specialised units, especially those of the agricultural departments, should also be prepared to provide rapid assistance in the event of a natural disaster, pollution or the onset of a crop disease which could affect farmers,” he added.

Officials should ensure they maintain stocks of seeds and any other materials that might be needed for such an intervention. They should also be working to educate their communities in the latest agribusiness developments and opportunities, he said.

The ministry also urged all forestry stakeholders to monitor the management of the timber industry, and to increase measures which eliminate the illegal export or processing of timber.

Sakhon instructed all Forestry Administration enforcement units to continue disseminating forest laws and regulations. They should maintain their policy of pursuing legal action against any individual or business found to be clearing or encroaching on state forest.

Reforestation must also be a priority and all departments should be cooperating with the private sector to ensure they have good stocks of seedlings that can be distributed to the local populations for replanting, Sokhon instructed.

“We need to expand community forests so that they can participate in forest management. We must also cultivate the mindset of creating community businesses among them. This will lead to increased incomes and living standards for them, and reduce their dependence on forest products and by-products. This will in turn help them to understand the benefits of untouched forest areas,” he said.

The minister also encouraged the prevention and suppression of fisheries crime by working with the government’s anti-fishing crime commission. The inter-ministerial commission was established to reduce fishing crimes in the Tonle Sap Lake and to promote responsibility and ownership over the management of fishery resources by fishing communities with the mechanism “Fisheries crime free fishing community”.