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PM orders inspection of flooded rice fields

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Flooded rice fields in Pursat province last month. Heng Chivoan

PM orders inspection of flooded rice fields

Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered that acting agriculture minister Aun Pornmoniroth assign experts to assess the extent of damage to rice fields due to recent flooding in a timely manner so that the government can provide rice seed to farmers quickly after more than 700 communes were hit by heavy rains.

In an audio address on October 8 – after putting finance minister Pornmoniroth at the helm of the agriculture ministry on top of his post – Hun Sen said that 22 of Cambodia’s provinces with 96 towns and districts and 770 communes were flooded by heavy rains recently with four people killed and many more affected, but most were evacuated to safety in time.

In addition to damage to some roads and other infrastructures, the floods had also inundated some school buildings and caused school closures and damaged some agricultural crops.

Kun Kim , first vice-president of the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), said that over 150,000ha of rice fields and over 40,000ha of other crops had been flooded. He noted that the waters in some places have now receded, whereas in other places they are still rising.

Citing the weather forecast, Hun Sen said more rain will fall though the situation in most areas had been brought under control.

He said his main concern is that some areas had already experienced shortages of some varieties of rice or crops, which would require the government to intervene immediately.

“I’ve instructed [Pornmoniroth] to assign experts to work with those provinces and the NCDM to assess the extent of the damage to rice crops and other crops as soon as possible so that the government can release any required varieties of rice timely to our people for them to begin growing rice again,” he said.

Hun Sen said that further intervention would be necessary to resolve these issues before the end of the season because the waters have not yet receded completely and people in certain places were able to begin growing rice again now, but some others could not yet do so.

He called for urgent cooperation between the agriculture ministry, sub-national authorities as well as the NCDM to jointly assess and prepare for the shipment of the necessary varieties of rice and crops to affected destinations.

He said that this is an urgent task that needs to be done before waiting for the waters to recede completely because there will not be enough water resources to grow more crops later in the year.

Kun Kim of the NCDM met with authorities and experts in the provinces close to the Tonle Sap Lake on October 9 – including Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces – and instructed the provincial water resources departments to cooperate and seriously study each location to restore the harvest while it is still possible.

“We have to study how to restore the situation and deliver the required varieties of rice to affected farmers after the floodwaters recede to ensure their livelihoods,” he said.

Nine districts of Siem Reap province were affected by flooding, including 32,465ha of rice fields, which is equivalent to 2,562 smallholder farms. At least 2,783ha of rice are known to be damaged and a total of 1,500ha of paddy fields will need to be rehabilitated, according to the NCDM.

Kampong Thom suffered flooding on 27,345ha of rice fields, with 9,500ha damaged, or the equivalent of 15,223 smallholder farms.

In an October 9 decision, Pornmonirath created working groups to accelerate the inspection and assessment of rice fields and of other crops damaged by floods prior to the government distributing rice seeds and other crop seeds for replanting.

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