Banteay Meanchey provincial governor Um Reatrey said agriculture is the life blood of the border province, were 85 per cent of the province’s 800,000 strong population are involved in cultivating crops. The province harvests between 900,000 and one million tonnes of rice a year.

He was addressing a press conference on the provincial administration’s past achievements, held on March 29 at the Council of Ministers.

He attributed the high yields to its irrigation systems, though there were not enough of them to cover the entire province yet for all farmers to grow dry-season rice crop.

He said the province has many water sources for rainy season rice that enables them to grow the crop during that part of the year, but in the dry season the systems are only able to supply about 30,000ha, which is insufficient for the needs of farmers.

“The people have seen others gathering in a bumper crop and they followed suit. Over 50,000ha was cultivated this year. But if they cultivate 50,000ha during the low water season, that’s not a problem. They get good yields and grow good rice, but we worry that if they all continue to do so there will eventually be water shortages,” he said.

He said there are two big projects in the province to adjust the irrigation systems and eliminate concerns regarding water shortages.

The first irrigation system, funded by South Korea, covers Poipet town, O’Chrou and Malai districts. The system has already been studied and its impacts are being addressed and is scheduled to begin operation later this year.

“Once we set up part of this system, I think that the agricultural sector will grow further because we will show we have water resources for supply to the people,” he said.

Reatrey said the second irrigation system project, funded by the French development agency AFD and based in Svay Chek district, is a canal that spans over 10 km from Svay Chek to Serei Saophoan town.

The province has 87 registered irrigation systems, including six small-size systems, 75 medium-size systems and six large-medium systems. The irrigation systems are able to irrigate 63,202ha of farm land, including 27,984ha used for rainy season rice and 35,218ha for dry season rice.

In a report, the provincial administration said the residents of Banteay Meanchey cultivated a total of 305,035ha of land last year and harvested about 900,000 to one million tonnes of rice: around 768,795 tonnes of rainy season rice and 251,368 tonnes of dry season rice.