The agriculture ministry is helping farmers mitigate the impacts of the El Nino weather phenomenon, or prolonged drought, on their crops, with all agriculture departments across the country offering technical assistance to those who are grappling with this challenge, according to ministry spokeswoman Im Rachna.

Rachna said on July 26 that the ministry had been alerted about the upcoming El Nino by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, which has issued warnings to farmers, advising them to gear up and safeguard their crops during this challenging period. As per their predictions, Cambodia is likely to feel the effects of this El Nino weather pattern.

“El Nino will negatively impact all crops, but we are not standing by idly. The ministry continues to work with farmers who need technical assistance. We have agricultural experts on hand to provide advice on how to prevent and control these impacts,” she explained.

Rachna cautioned that El Nino could potentially trigger a pest invasion, including lice, worms and red spiders that could devastate farmers’ crops. Nevertheless, she highlighted a glimmer of hope. Recent times have seen a subtle decrease in the costs of pesticides and fertilisers, she observed, which could provide some financial relief to farmers tackling these challenges.

“When our farmers’ crops are disturbed by pesticides, the lower prices of fertilisers and pesticides can also help with farmers’ cost to some extent. Climate change could affect both crops and their yields, but it is still early to predict about the regions that would be affected by this phenomenon,” she further elaborated.

Despite cashews being a climate-tolerant crop, the Cashew nut Association of Cambodia (CAC) is concerned about the effects of El Nino, which would cause prolonged drought and deplete soil moisture.

CAC president Uon Silot said the association had informed all members about this phenomenon, which could affect the region from October this year until June 2024.

The association has provided several solutions, such as advising farmers to prepare cashew branches so that the plants can absorb enough water, and recommending the application of fertiliser at the stem in proportion to its plant to make it strong and save energy.

“Farmers should adopt the bud flowering technique, which includes the removal of leaves from cashew trees over seven years old,” he said.

“This action should be completed no later than the end of October this year. Additionally, farmers must familiarise themselves with the proper use of pesticides, taking into account the active components and types of pests, to prevent unnecessary usage,” he emphasised.

While acknowledging that these measures may not be 100 per cent effective, Silot is hopeful that they could at least provide 50 per cent assistance to farmers. He also stressed the importance of farmers’ readiness.

“We need to prepare to mitigate the effects of this weather phenomenon, which could decrease cashew yields by a minimum of 10 per cent. As such, we plan to invite the heads of cashew associations from various provinces for a consultation meeting in August. Our aim is to collectively brainstorm solutions to this impending problem,” he said.