Yang Saing Koma, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, has issued a reminder to farmers to prepare measures to mitigate an upcoming brief period of drought.

He cited a forecast by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology that predicted drought conditions may occur from early July to early August.

“I urge farmers to take preventive measures to mitigate the impacts of a brief drought by storing rainwater in canals and ponds during the rainy season,” he said.

He added that ideally, farmers should delay growing rice until after the drought, but timely preparations need to be made in any case.

“They should pay close attention to natural fertilisers, rice varieties, soil and dams. If no reliable water sources are available for irrigation, they may be able to use compost to keep moisture in the soil for longer.

“These measures will not totally counter the impacts of climate change, but they will partially mitigate them. Droughts are not a new phenomenon in Cambodia, after all,” he said.

Lun Yeng, secretary-general of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), said cultivation conditions are different in each part of the country, so it is impossible to comment on how widespread the effects of a possible drought may be.

“The conditions that were forecast may have an impact, but it failed to specify which areas would experience drought and to what extent. Some areas rely on pumped irrigation sources and some have access to rivers. We must take a ‘wait and see’ approach before making an assessment,” he added.

Young Pakk, CEO of AGRIBEE (Cambodia) Plc, said he believed that the brief drought would have no serious impact as most rice farmers planted in April, so July would mark the start of the harvesting season.

“A brief spell of drought has less serious impact than a prolonged one. What concerns me more is flooding. The government has done a lot of really good work to expand water storage systems, so drought mitigation is not a serious problem. Flooding, on the other hand, can do serious damage to rice crops,” he explained.

According to the CRF, in the first five months of this year, Cambodia exported 278,184 tonnes of milled rice worth $191 million to 48 foreign markets, as well as 2.14 million tonnes of paddy to the tune of $545 million, exclusively to Vietnam.

Fragrant varieties made up almost 85 per cent of the milled rice that was exported.