Cambodian premier warns of food shortage for 2003

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Phnom Penh (dpa) - Prime Minister Hun Sen warned on Tuesday that Cambodia faces a food shortage of about 88,000 tonnes of rice for the year 2003.

"I think we can solve this problem as we are preparing rice for hungry people," Hun Sen told reporters after presiding over a National Disaster Control Committee seminar.

"The shortage of rice is one issue, but the other issue is that we will not let any people die from starvation," he said.

The United Nations World Food Programme recently estimated that nearly 700,000 Cambodians would require food aid after an extraordinary combination of drought and flood over the past three years.

The organization blamed global climate change for creating years of unpredictable weather that has tormented farmers across the countryside, and said that if the unusual weather patterns persisted, they would produce pockets of chronic food shortages.

World Food Program representatives also blamed poor water management for the food deficit and pledged to provide 6,500 metric tons of food to help families in affected districts.

Cambodian officials from the National Disaster Control Committee have said a combination of droughts and floods, which affected more than 3.4 million people this year, have already ruined at least 30 million dollars worth of rice crops.

Cambodia's farmers rely mostly on the May to October monsoon rains for crop irrigation. Officials said a lack of rain until mid-August destroyed more than 21 million dollars worth of early rice crops, while floods damaged at least 9 million dollars worth.

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