The Battambang region of north-west Khmer Republic produces a large percentage of the country's agricultural produce.
The Battambang region of north-west Khmer Republic produces a large percentage of the country's agricultural produce. The province is undoubtedly the most fertile area still under firm Government control in the war against the Khmer Rouge insurgents,and as such plays a vital role in keeping both the people and the economy of the country alive.
One of Battambang's most famous crops is the delicious Asian orange. Since the escalation of the civil conflict in 1970, the total orange acreage under cultivation has dwindled, along with the important rice acreage. But the province still produces sufficient oranges to cause a glut on the home market during the harvest season of December to April.
One of the chief reasons for the surplus orange crop is the country's inability to export the large percentage of oranges it once supplied to other south-east Asian countries. South Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand were important markets for the Battambang fruit produce before the escalation of the conflict cut off supply routes. Transporting the produce to these countries is now dangerous and prohibitively expensive. The Battambang-Bangkok rail route can only accommodate a small percentage of the former export trade, leaving the bulk of the orange harvest in Khmer itself.
Fresh fruit, however, is one of the stable constituents of the average Khmer diet. The glut on the home market means that a people with an average annual per capta income of 130 US dollars (about GBP54 sterling) do not starve. Fish, vegetables and fruit provide an adequate subsistence diet which avoids the grinding starvation present in other Asian countries. Even after expensive air-freighting to the capital, Phnom, Pahn, the price of oranges remains low.