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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Low prices increase poverty: farmers

Low prices increase poverty: farmers

CAMBODIAN farmers say they may see themselves fall deeper into poverty in the coming years as the price of agricultural goods continues to fall with soft demand.

Nov Sear, a 54-year-old farmer from Kirivong district in Takeo province, said the price of papaya and cassava has fallen about 50 percent compared with last year.

"I'm very concerned about [dried] cassava prices because its value has dropped from 400-500 [US$0.09-$0.12] riels per kilo in 2007 to 250-300 riels per kilo now," said Nov Sear.

"If prices keep dropping like this, I will have problems supporting my family."

He said that last year he made US$1,500 per hectare, but this year he is making half that.

Ngoun Moeun, 47, said he is keeping his cassava in the soil in case prices rise.

"I don't want to harvest my cassava because the prices are 50 percent lower than last year," he said.

Ngoun Moeun said that even though prices continue to fall, he still keeps planting because he has no other source of income.

He said that he will plant another product such as papaya next year.

A report released by the World Bank this month said that Cambodia will see an additional 200,000 people pushed below the poverty line this year due to the global recession, making it the worst affected in the region.

"Cambodia is the country with the largest projected increase in the number of poor people," the report said.

Debt mounting

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said that he believes farmers are now struggling to pay back loans because of sinking food prices.

"Farmers are facing problems because their products sell at low prices," he said.

"If they cannot earn more next year, they will have no money to plant again, and they will be living with even more difficulties."

Va Hak, 64, a farmer in Banan district, Battambang province, said the money that he earned from selling cassava, banana and corn this year has not been enough to pay for fertiliser, pesticide, labour and other expenses.

"This year I have lost about $1,500. It's not like last year when I made $3,000," he said. He said that in his village, there are a lot of cassava farmers that have left their homes to find jobs in Phnom Penh or even across the border in Thailand.

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