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Flooding cuts crop harvests, new planting

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A woman harvest rices in Kampong Speu province. In Cambodia, two crops of rice are typically grown per year. Hean Rangsey

Flooding cuts crop harvests, new planting

Rain-induced floods at the end of the rainy season made crop cultivation during the dry season for 2020-2021 slow and reduced the total amount of land under cultivation from the previous year.

Horticultural and industrial crops for the dry season this year are also down, according to a report released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on December 15.

The ministry’s estimates for the amount of rice that will be grown during the dry season in 2020-2021 show a total of 459,200ha of crops across the country, which is 150,242ha less than last year.

The reduction of the dry season rice harvest planned for this year was due to concerns about a possible drought, which would lead to a shortage of water for irrigation.

“As of December 9, 2020, the dry season rice crop for 2020-2021 is growing on 304,099ha or about 66.2 per cent of the total area planned for,” the report said.

In addition to the land under cultivation for the rice crop, land use for horticultural and industrial crops during the dry season this year has also been reduced.

The ministry planned to grow horticultural crops including white corn, sweet potatoes, chilli pepper, watermelons and a variety of other vegetables on 37,312ha during the dry season this year, which is 8,521ha less than last year.

Industrial crops including red corn, sweet potatoes, legumes (such as peanuts and soybeans), sesame, sugarcane, jute, tobacco and lotuses will be grown on 84,770ha during the dry season, which is 4,164ha less than last year.

As of December 9, horticultural crops were being grown on 12,541ha or about 33.6 per cent of the total land that the ministry had expected would be used. Industrial crops were being grown on 33,477ha, or about 39.5 per cent of what had been planned for this season.

“Overall, the pace of growth for rice crops, horticultural and industrial crops during the dry season for 2020-2021 is much slower than last year largely because of natural disasters,” the report said.

The ministry also sent teams of experts to advise farmers to try to grow dry season rice and other crops while being careful to conserve as much water as possible as a precaution against the looming possibility of a drought still occurring this season.

In Cambodia, two crops of rice are typically grown per year. The monsoon-season (or long-cycle) crop is generally planted in late May through to July and harvested in December, whereas the dry-season (or short-cycle) crop is planted in November and collected in January-February of the following year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Ministry spokesman Srey Vuthy said the floods at the end of the rainy season had taken a heavy toll on this year’s dry-season harvest.

As of December 9, rice crops in 19 provinces had been affected or damaged by rain-induced flooding. A total of 314,042ha of the rice crop, or about 11.25 per cent of Cambodia’s total rice crop of 2,588,130ha, has been affected in some way, accord ing to ministry data.

Vuthy noted that 133,405ha of the affected crops had sustained significant damage.

He said an additional 10,001ha of horticultural crops and 87,212ha of industrial crops have been impacted similarly, with 2,310ha of those horticultural crops and 59,005ha of those industrial crops having been seriously damaged by the floods.

Following the floods, 31,492ha of rice crops and 49,387ha of horticultural and industrial crops had been successfully restored, he said.

“Besides striving to grow rice crops and all kinds of other crops during this dry season, farmers have also attended to rainy season rice stalks. They have restored these rice stalks after past floods to obtain a sufficient yield for sustaining their livelihoods,” Vuthy said.

He added that as of December 9, a total of 1,977,916ha of the monsoon-season rice crop from the 2,790,829ha of land under cultivation this year had been harvested. Farmers had yielded a total of 6,234,494 tonnes of paddy at an average of 3.15 tonnes per hectare.

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