AN agricultural research centre has urged the government to increase investment in the agricultural sector in a bid to guarantee growth, claiming that not enough was being done to modernise Cambodian farming.
Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Center for Studies and Agricultural Development (CEDAC), on Thursday said the government should inject US$200 million to $300 million into the agricultural sector.
"If the government does not increase ... investments, we believe that the future of the agricultural sector will be more and more weak ... as productivity gets lower ... and as a result more and more young people will move from their homes," he said. "Nowadays, the government always says ‘develop the agricultural sector', but in reality not much is done.... We wish the government would do more sustainable work over the next decade so that Cambodian agriculture can accelerate."
Prime Minister Hun Sen this month called on the banking sector to offer more loans to the agricultural sector.
Yang Saing Koma said that Cambodia lacks an experimentation centre, training for farmers and irrigation systems.
"I do not understand why the government does not facilitate bigger investment in this sector," said Yang Saing Koma.
Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun said the government is trying to increase public investment, adding that rice production - which increased by 600,000 tonnes in 2008 over 2007 - would make even greater gains if irrigation were improved.
"Every year the government makes a public investment of $19 million on agriculture.... I think that the government has done enough," he said. "We are now training farmers in different provinces.... We train them in growing methods in the field."
But Pich Sophorn, secretary of state at the ministry of Labour Affairs, acknowledged that farming methods could still be improved.
"I think that if we use new methods to help farmers get a yield of two to four tonnes [of rice] per hectare, they will get double the income," he said.
The sector is also facing a manpower problem, he said, due to the low numbers of young people taking up farming - 60 percent of the workforce is in farming while only five percent of students study the subject.
According the Council for the Development of Cambodia, from 1994 to 2008, total private investment in agriculture reached $1.184 billion, compared to $12.79 billion in tourism and $5.8 billion in services.