T HE Minister of Agriculture Kong Sam Ol is furious with his technical staff for not being more vigorous in helping people to plant crops in flood affected areas to avoid famine.
Addressing Ministry of Agriculture staff from all the provinces Sam Ol angrily said: "You all reported to me that you have done very well [helping people] to sow the existing rice fields but as I know only 75 percent of the 2.2 million hectares of farm land has been planted. Agricultural staff are good at spinning lies."
He said staff chiefs had often sent false reports about the agriculture work their departments had done for the Ministry.
The meeting between Sam Ol and his technical staff was held on Sept 30 at the Ministry of Agriculture to assess the damage done by flooding, to give estimates of the resulting food shortage that will arise, to find ways of solving the problem and to assess the costs of rehabilitation.
Sam Ol said the vital means for agricultural officials to rescue people from starvation this year was by motivating them to plant alternative crops such as cassava, potato and jam instead of rice in the flood affected areas.
Cassava, potato and jam crops can be grown in about one month, whereas rice takes about four months to grow, so it is not too late in the season to plant these crops, said Sam Ol.
Echoing the famous quote 'If they can't eat bread let them eat cake' Sam Ol said: "We could eat cassava or sweet potato instead if our rice is destroyed.
"But the only thing you [agricultural staff] have done to try to resolve the disaster affecting the farmers is to ask the Ministry of Agriculture and some NGOs for rice seed and fertilizer."
The minister also asked his technical officials to restore the peoples living standard by persuading them to grow vegetables and fruit trees.
Sam Ol said after last year's food shortage the people were looking to this year for a good crop. But he said: "This year we have met catastrophe. 130,000 hectares of rice fields had been damaged by floods."