The Ministry of Agriculture says a national agriculture fund could ease growers' burdens
SENIOR agricultural officials say they plan to launch a national fund for farmers this year to boost production and increase rural access to credit.
The program would be funded by NGOs and administered by Cambodia's Ministry of Agriculture. Its aims include offering loans to farmers and encouraging information exchange to enhance market knowledge.
Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun said the fund will start small with 100 million riels (US$25,000) in seed capital.
He said that additional funds would come from donors and the government.
"I believe our agricultural sector will develop very fast in the future, once this fund is established," Chan Sarun said.
Agriculture is the primary contributor to national income and employer in Cambodia, but the lack of an agricultural fund is seen as a major impediment to the sector's growth.
Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodia Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, said he welcomes the idea of an agricultural fund because it will help boost yields and increase access to cheap credit.
"Farmers can benefit more from this fund because they can get credit to increase their production and gain access to new farming methods," Yang Saing Koma said.
"I think farmers in a village need about $5,000 credit on average per year," said added.
"The fund is really important for farmers because they can access cheap finances as well as receive technical and market information from experts," he said.
... our argicultural sector will develop very fast ... once this fund is established.
But Yang Saing Koma warned that Cambodia should carefully consult with stakeholders to ensure transparency and efficiency.
Prak Chres, president of the Nature and Farmers Association in Takeo province's Tram Kok district, said that farmers rarely have access to up-to-date information.
"I think this fund will not only help farmers exchange experience, but also encourage them to cooperate effectively," he said.
"Once we have this fund, farmers will meet very often to exchange information and express grievances," he added.
Suy Thorn, a farmer in Takeo province's Tram Kak district, said he has never met with other farmers and hopes that the government will disseminate information about disease outbreaks and market price trends.
"I believe we would benefit from the opportunity to access new sources of finance and experience from other farmers and officials to improve production capacity," said Suy Thorn.
Govt support needed
Cheam Chan Sophaon, director of the Battambang Agriculture Office, said that farmers need government support to overcome volatile fuel and food prices.
"This fund could be an important step for rural farmers," he said.
The proposed fund is part of a national effort to boost agricultural yields and increase rural incomes.
Agriculture experts point to countries like Thailand, which offer a variety of programs that help farmers. These include subsidised loans, agricultural price support mechanisms and price controls on fertilisers and fuel.