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Government distributes rice to drought-stricken areas

Government distributes rice to drought-stricken areas

The Government has begun to distribute rice from its disaster relief stockpiles to

rural areas that are gripped by drought conditions.

Rainfall has been patchy in Cambodia. Some drought-hit provinces have been unable

to get rice seedlings started while others are experiencing excellent crop conditions.

Prey Veng is one of the worst-affected provinces, where Lach Sim Onn, second deputy

governor, said eight of the 12 districts were experiencing drought and many farmers

were unable to get seedlings and planting started.

Up to the beginning of September only 37.38 percent (93,464 hectares) of the total

cultivated rice area (250,000 hectares) had been planted. The provincial agriculture

office had 107 tons of rice seed available for lending to farmers.

"Ninety percent of the people are farmers; they need more wells to water their

rice," said Sim Onn. He said Prey Veng was affected by natural disaster every

year, some parts of the province getting drought and some parts being flooded.

Seng Soeung, deputy chief of agriculture at Kampong Speu, said only 23.96 percent

of seedlings in the province had been planted due to rain not falling in mid-season.

Five of the eight districts were experiencing drought.

"We estimate that the province's farmers will not reach their planting target

because the time for seedlings is short," said Soeung

The province had a reserve stock of 104 tons of rice seed for lending to the people,

but the need was for more than 200 tons. The seed was loaned at no charge and would

be collected back after the harvest.

He said the province government would ask the National Committee for Disaster Management

for intervention.

Soeung said the provincial had two irrigation schemes, which flowed to three districts.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery (MAFF) has stocked 2000 tons of

rice as an emergency food supply for people suffering from natural disaster.

Chan Tong Yves, secretary of state at MAFF, said about 70 percent of the country's

total rice area was planted and he expected last year's total would be equalled because

there was still time to plant and rain was now coming to all areas.

Chhang Lay, 54, a farmer at Borsaeth district of Kampong Speu, said if there was

no rain to come people could not plant rice because that area has no water irrigation

system.

"The seedlings continue to die, and next year we will have nothing to eat,"

he said.

In a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 20, the first deputy president

of the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), Nhim Vanda, said the provinces

along Tonle Sap could cultivate areas equal to 2003.

Vanda said from September 1 NCDM had provided 44 tons of rice to people caught by

drought in Kampong Speu, Takeo, Prey Veng and Kandal.

According to a recent MAFF report the total planted area is 1,424,796 hectares out

of 2,174,510 hectares target (65.52 percent), 225, 809 hectares lower than last year.

Provinces on target include Banteay Meanchey with 103.78 percent Battambang, 90.17

percent, Siem Reap, 92.16 percent and Kampong Cham, 85.57 percent.

In 2003 farmers in 24 provinces and cities planted 2, 314,285 hectares and harvested

4,170,957 tons.

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