02 - December - 2011

In early 1986, the Australian government and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) together entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in an attempt to address rice production problems in Indochina.  That year, three IRRI scientists arrived in Cambodia to identify potential areas of cooperation and assistance. It marked the end of a 20-year hiatus in IRRI’s involvement with the country. There were subsequent visits under the Deep Water Rice Project later that year, prior to the introduction of some varietal evaluation sites in 1987. This cooperation and assistance came at a crucial time for Cambodia, with rice production efforts suffering from years of war and political unrest. The economically active population of Cambodia at the time was only about two and a half to three million – a workforce equivalent to what the country had in the late 1960s. Malnutrition, poor sanitation and scarce medical services created problems such as high rates of infant mortality (as much as two per cent). The economy functioned far below capacity in nearly every sector. The 1979 to 1981 period immediately following the fall of the Pol Pot regime was one of acute food shortages and massive population relocation. Emergency aid and relief operations averted famine but this just highlighted the fact Cambodia, simply, was in desperate need of increased levels of domestic rice production. Prior to 1969 Cambodia’s rice exports were peaking at 500,000 tons, and although 1986 provided near-perfect growing conditions the country could not meet domestic demand.Cambodia had been experiencing a rice deficit of these proportions for nearly twenty years.Many things had changed in that time and there were now additional constraints to the import of adequate quantities of chemicals and equipment, as well as a shortage of labour and draft animals. An indication of how much things had really changed was the fact prior to 1969 wet season rice covered an area of around 2.4 million hectares but by the mid-1980s cultivated rice had diminished to just 1.8 million hectares, the major share of production coming from the Mekong Delta provinces in the south-east (Kampong Cham, Kandal, Kompong Speu, Prey Veng, Takeo, and Svay Rieng) and from the north-western province of Battambang.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 February 2009 07:19
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