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Ploughing ceremony oxen speak

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Royal oxen feed on various crops during the annual royal ploughing ceremony in Takeo province on Wednesday. KHEM SOVANNARA/AFP

Ploughing ceremony oxen speak

A pair of royal oxen fulfilled their roles in this year’s royal ploughing ceremony, which marks the beginning of the rice-growing season, by predicting a bountiful harvest.

The oxen consumed three of the seven items presented to them by Royal Palace officials after having ploughed a field. The items consumed are believed to predict agricultural production in the upcoming rainy season.

The two oxen consumed 85 per cent of the rice, 90 per cent of the corn and 85 per cent of the beans presented to them. Tellingly, they did not consume sesame, grass, water or rice wine on offer.

Through the oxen’s consumption, the Royal Palace astrologers predicted that rice, corn and beans would see a bountiful harvest during this year’s rainy season, as per Khmer tradition.

Takeo provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries deputy director Ngeth Sophea told The Post that in the past farmers grew the crops that the royal oxen had eaten during the ceremony, which they believed would yield a good harvest.

However, these days, farmers know better and are more familiar with farming techniques than in the past. Hence, they use market forces to gauge which crop they should produce.

“According to the astrologers’ predictions through the royal oxen’s consumption, farmers need only grow rice, corn and beans. However, consumers need more than these options, so farmers have to plant more crops to respond to market demands. This is what our farmers have been continuing to do each season,” she said.

According to Sophea, there are 185,000ha of land in Takeo province for rainy season agriculture and 75,000ha of land for the dry season.

Meanwhile, Pos Chhin, a farmer in Phsar Kandal commune’s Prey Kub village in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town, said he is currently growing red corn on more than 2ha of land and it has begun to sprout.

“We are farmers. We have to understand the development of the agricultural sector and markets, otherwise we cannot have a decent livelihood,” he said.

“I had grown corn before the royal ploughing ceremony took place, and before the royal oxen consumed the items prepared for them more than a week ago. However, it is also good for me that the oxen chose to eat more corn than anything else.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
This year’s ploughing ceremony was held at the Kirivong Stadium in Donkeo town and was presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni. Photo supplied

“It is very necessary for farmers to take care of and water their crops, to give them fertiliser so that they grow better and yield a plentiful harvest.”

Chhin said it is essential to choose the proper crops to grow during the early rainy season. He said corn can be grown on normal plains or on dry season rice fields.

However, deep rice fields cannot grow corn. They can only grow rice or bean crops as they take less water to ripen than corn. On the other hand, corn can endure drought during a short dry spell during the rainy season.

Forecast matches prediction

Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology spokesman Chan Yutha told The Post on Wednesday that droughts which result from short dry spells during the rainy season will take place between mid-July and mid-August.

The forecast is similar to the astrologists’ prediction from observing that the royal oxen did not drink water.

“However, for now, the rains will continue to fall sparsely throughout the country which will allow farmers to begin growing rice and other crops for their family’s livelihood."

“Meanwhile, all of our government’s relevant institutions are ready to intervene to save agricultural production in case of drought,” Yutha said.

This year’s royal ploughing ceremony was held at the Kirivong Stadium in Takeo province’s Donkeo town and was presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni.

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