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.

Thousands of Cambodia's cows hit by foot-and-month disease

PHNON PENH, July 25 (Xinhuanet) -- Thousands of Cambodian cattle and oxen have been hit by foot-and-month disease since the beginning of the rainy season, local newspaper The Cambodia Daily reported Monday.

The disease, which weakens adult animals and kills calves, has affected Kompong Chhnang and Kompong Thom provinces the most, Yim Voeunthan, Agriculture Ministry secretary of state was quoted as saying.

"There are more than 10,000 sick animals in Kompong Chhnang," he said. "This is a forest area and cows are easily infected from the water flowing from the forest."

Yim Voeunthan said that vaccines have been given to 1.5 millionoxen nationwide to control the spread of the disease.

"This year is the worst ever for this disease," Deputy Governorof Kompong Chhnang King Sarim said.

In developed countries, mass slaughter of infected cows is the recommended procedure, but Cambodians are too poor for this policy,the newspaper said.

Yim Voeunthan said that Cambodia cannot export cattle because foot-and-mouth disease is widespread in the country. Cow and buffaloes are the main livelihoods for many Cambodian farmers. Enditem

Prince Ranariddh applauses FUNCINPEC-CPP relations

Phnom Penh (VNA) - Cambodia's National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh has affirmed that FUNCINPEC, which is led by himself, and the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) with Prime Minister Hun Sen as its Vice Chairman, will continue cooperating for a long time in national governance, management, construction and development, because their cooperation remains indispensable in maintaining durable stability and long-term peace in the country.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who is also a CPP spokesman, said stability and development are the most important necessities for Cambodia, and the Cambodian people and the CPP will give their full support to national reconciliation between political parties in the country.

According to newspapers in Cambodia, since the ruling alliance, made up of the CPP and FUNCINPEC, was founded in July 2004, leaders of the two parties in general, and Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Norodom Ranariddh in particular, have praised each other for their national governance and leadership.-Enditem

UK Minister to Visit Cambodia

UK Foreign Office Minister for Trade Ian Pearson MP will visit Cambodia, Thailand and Laos from 25 - 29 July.

From 25-26 July Mr Pearson will visit Cambodia. He will meet Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen, members of the British community in Phnom Penh and a local NGO training former street children in the catering industry.

In Thailand, from 26-27 July, the Minister will meet Deputy Prime Minister Dr Surakiart Sathirathai and other senior Ministers. The visit will focus on the burgeoning trade and investment relationship between the UK and Thailand. Last year, the UK was the second largest European exporter to Thailand, whilst the UK was Thailand's largest export market in Europe.

From 28-29 July, the Minister will attend the EU/ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference and the ASEAN Regional Forum Meeting in Laos alongside Javier Solana, the EU's high representative. The main topics for discussion will be regional security, trade and counter-terrorism.

Speaking ahead of his trip, Mr Pearson said:

"I look forward to meeting Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh, and raising issues of mutual interest including the forthcoming Khmer Rouge tribunal and good governance issues. One of the Foreign Office's international crime priorities is helping Cambodia to tackle child sex tourism and to assist the victims of the trade. During my visit, I will attend a training session for Cambodian police on using a UK-funded child sex offenders register, and see the Cambodian version of ChildLine, where cases of abuse can be reported in confidence.

"In Thailand I will learn what further opportunities there are for UK businesses to invest in the growing market there. I will be giving a speech to the British Chamber of Commerce, setting out the benefits for Thai companies looking to invest in the UK.

"At the meetings in Vientiane the EU will push forward the World Trade Organisation agenda, and discuss how we can enhance counter-terrorism cooperation within the region. This will be a key opportunity to raise our concerns about Burma in bilateral meetings with Asian countries."

Cambodia weathering global trade changes

Cambodia's garment sector has bounced back after the end of a global quota system saw orders dip because of competition from China.

The $US 1.9-billion sector provides more than 80 percent of the kingdom's export earnings and employs some 270,000 people.

For the first few months after the end of the quota system in January, orders shifted to China.

But by May, the United States, which buys more than three-quarters of Cambodia's exports, had imposed quotas on seven types of textiles from China.

The European Union, which purchases most of the rest of Cambodia's production, took similar action in June.

Cambodia keen on farming plan with Thailand

The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry is upbeat at the enthusiasm shown by Cambodia towards contract farming under a regional cooperation scheme to foster ties with neighbouring countries.

Contract farming under the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (Acmecs) was high up on the agenda of the four-day talks between members of the two countries' agriculture ministries that ended on Wednesday.

Thailand plans to introduce contract farming in Cambodia's Battambang, Oddar Meanchey, Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces along the Thai border. Target crops are soybean, maize, castor bean, tapioca and palm.

''Cambodia wanted to know more about contract farming and showed great interest in our proposal. We will send a team there to introduce new planting techniques to Cambodian farmers,'' Suthiporn Chirapanda, the ministry's deputy permanent secretary, said.

Acmecs, initiated by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is aimed at strengthening cooperation in tourism, agricultural and industrial development, trade and investment, regional transportation links and human resources development.

Members include Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.

Under the proposed contract farming scheme, the Thai private sector will buy selected crops from Cambodian farmers which would be exempt from import tax.

''What we have planned to plant in Cambodia is crops that we usually import from other countries and has no bearing on Thai farmers,'' Mr Suthiporn said, citing maize, which Thailand imports over two million tonnes a year from overseas. The ministry's main concern now was the quality of crops that would emerge from Cambodia, which may not be up to standard, a ministry source said.

''Everything is very new for Cambodia, so we need time for them to adjust to the new system and technology. We don't want to speed up all the projects,'' the source said.