Monday, July 25, 2005

Cambodian drought eases but some areas face food shortfall

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia's worst drought in 50 years has eased with rainfall since last month across much of the impoverished country but some areas may still face food shortages, a senior minister said.

Cambodian children walk in a dried irrigation canal in search of crabs in the drought-hit Kandal province, some 25 kilometres northwest of Phnom Penh, March 19, 2005. Cambodia's worst drought in 50 years has eased with rainfall since last month across much of the impoverished country but some areas may still face food shortages, a senior minister said.(AFP/File/Khem Sovannara)
AFP/File Photo: Cambodian children walk
in a dried irrigation canal in search of crabs in the drought-hit...

At least 14 of Cambodia's 24 provinces were hit by drought this year, with up to 700,000 Cambodians suffering from food shortages due to poor rice harvests.

"For several weeks there has been a lot of rainfall across Cambodia but it has missed some areas, such as Kampong Speu, Kandal and Takeo provinces," senior minister Tao Seng Huor told reporters on Monday.

The minister, also vice chairman of the Council for Agriculture and Rural Development, said the rice crop in the predominantly rural kingdom was expected to be larger than last year.

"If the drought ends and there are no floods then rice production for the rainy season could equal that of 2003, which was 3.8 million tonnes," he said after talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun.

Rainy season production in 2004 dipped to 3.1 million tonnes, according to agriculture ministry figures.

"At the national level we are not worried about food shortages but some areas may face shortages," he said, noting that forecasters were predicting a short dry spell to hit in August.

The monsoon season in Cambodia typically lasts from late April to November with harvesting from December to February.

Tao Seng Huor said the government would next month boost efforts to encourage farmers to plant crops requiring less water such as corns and beans. Hun Sen has already made such pleas with farmers.

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