Expensive Rice Forcing Villagers To Send Children Out To Work

baray district, Kompong Thom – Recent inflationary pressure, in particular the soaring cost of rice, is forcing older teenagers to leave Tnort Chum Ti Muo village to find work in the city, local officials said.

In the village, located about 140 km north of Phnom Penh, about 80 percent of the 700 or so inhabitants don’t have surplus rice stockpiled to last them until the December harvest, deputy village chief Khet Nhes said.

During the next two months most villagers will run out of stock and be forced to purchase rice, the local price of which has risen during the past year from 1,500 riel per kg for second quality rice to 2,500 riel, Khet Nhes said.

The increase in the cost of rice, gasoline and other commodities has caused most families in Tnort Chum Ti Muo to send their children to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap town to work as factory or construction workers once they stop attending school, he said, adding that the youngest children to leave are about 16 years old.

“In the village, all the eldest sons and daughters have left. Now you can only see young children here,” he said. “We are not happy that our children work far away, but what else can we do? We need money,” he added. Six of his 11 children have left the village to work in the capital, Khet Nhes said.

Ten kilometers down the road, in the Chong Doung commune village of Ku, rising prices are affecting village livelihoods in other ways.

Villager Ouk Sok, 45, said the increase in the cost of materials needed to make rattan bookcases and tables—a common handicraft product of Ku village—recently put this potential source of income out of his family’s reach.

In the past year, the cost of the dried rattan vines needed to make five bookcases rose 40 percent, from 5,000 riel to 7,000 riel, while the price of a 5 kg box of nails has leapt 20 percent, from 25,000 to 30,000 riel, according to Ouk Sok.

Being priced out of this craft and ever-increasing food prices, are putting pressure on his family of nine, he said. Ouk Sok said he now goes fishing to earn extra money, but this does not replace the income he previously made from handicrafts. Moreover, he expects the ton of rice he harvested from his 1.5-hectare farm to run out within two months.

Ouk Sok said that his family only eats a late breakfast and dinner to postpone exhausting their rice supply. This is typical for this time of year, he said, but this year he fears that he will not be able to afford the high cost of rice once his stock is depleted.

“When I don’t have enough rice, I will have to borrow rice, but if I borrow 1 kg, I have to give back two later,” he added.

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