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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Agriculture census unveiled, to the delight of the industry

Farmers pick cucumbers at a farm in Khsach Kandal district in Kandal province last week
Farmers pick cucumbers at a farm in Khsach Kandal district in Kandal province last week. Heng Chivoan

Agriculture census unveiled, to the delight of the industry

Measuring in detail the country’s largest sector in terms of household engagement, the government yesterday revealed the results of the first-ever Agricultural Census – a survey welcomed yesterday by industry analysts.

The 33-page report states that 2.2 million out of a possible 2.6 million or 85 per cent of all households are engaged in some form of agricultural-related activity, such as growing rice, raising livestock, fishing or extracting rubber.

Of that number, the census states that 1.9 million households are officially considered to have agriculture “holdings”, meaning they have at least two large livestock or three small livestock or 25 poultry or land equal to 300 square metres.

Prey Veng province accounted for the largest share of agricultural holdings at 10.5 per cent, followed by Takeo and Kampong Speu provinces. While at the other end of the scale, the quiet coastal province of Kep accounted for the lowest percentage of agriculture-engaged households with just 0.3 per cent.

In total, the census estimates there to be 3.1 million hectares of agricultural land spread throughout the country. This figure does not include land held under economic land concessions, Chhay Than, the minister of planning, said.

While Cambodia’s agricultural sector contributed some 31.6 per cent to the country’s total GDP or $15.25 billion in 2013, doing business is seemingly not on the minds of most households engaged in the sector. According to the preliminary census results, 73 per cent of all agriculture-related households operate only to serve home consumption, leaving 27 per cent who are reportedly selling their crops and livestock.

“This pointed out the dependence of the rural households on agriculture for food,” the report states, adding that on average each household has about four members.

Non-aromatic paddy rice is by far Cambodia’s largest crop, with 90 per cent of all holdings engaged in growing the cheaper variety.

“This was due to the fact that the cost of using non-aromatic paddy was not too expensive compared with the aromatic paddy/rice,” the report reasons.

Agricultural-engaged households were also recorded as housing 472,000 buffalo, 1.4 million pigs, 2.7 million cattle, 28 million chickens, 5 million ducks and a few thousand goats.

The survey covered all 24 provinces and five selected districts in Phnom Penh between April and June last year and was welcomed by industry insiders who said the comprehensive study will assist researchers and policy makers to make future decisions about the industry.

Chan Sophal, spokesman for the Cambodian Economic Association, said the all-encompassing survey would support growth in an industry that had previously relied on less conclusive or inaccurate data.

“The biggest observations of the industry so far have been from a sample field of just 12,000 to 15,000 households,” he said. “This, more accurate data with detailed information will help policy makers and planners to work easier and be more successful in their projects.”

Mey Kalyan, a senior adviser to the Supreme National Economic Council and a co-writer of the country’s rice exports policy, said strengthening industry data would help improve supply chains and linkages – a long time pitfall of Cambodia’s agriculture sector.

“Now we have a more accurate data to think about when preparing the policy,” Kalyan said. “Agriculture is a very big sector. It is not only about production, but also supply chain, market linkage, and others. We need to use this data for the maximum benefit.”

But gathering the information across 2.6 million households was not without its challenges, said Nina Brandstrup, representative from the FAO.

“Identifying the 4,000 enumerators and supervisors and making sure that they were trained and equipped to carry out the census required much planning,” she said.

Funding for the census, which cost more than $5.5 million to complete, was provided by the Government, AusAid, the Swedish International Development Agency, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organsiation and USAID.

A full version of the Agriculture Census is expected to be released December this year.

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