Tractor sales continued to grow last year, driven by a shortage of labour in the agricultural sector and farmer cooperatives increasingly pooling their resources to buy farm equipment to serve their members.
Roughly 14,000 tractors produced by 10 different companies were sold last year in Cambodia, compared to about 12,000 one year earlier, a Ministry of Agriculture official said yesterday, citing unreleased ministry data.
The figure does not include sales of two-wheeled tractors and pump machines, which are estimated to have topped 630,000 units last year.
Eang Sophallet, spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, said modern equipment such as tractors are helping to make Cambodia’s agricultural industry more competitive in the international market.
The equipment is already used to produce more than three-quarters of the country’s total paddy rice, and has become increasingly affordable for smallholder farmers operating it on a time-share basis.
“We are trying to encourage more cooperation in the rice sector, where farmers can share money to buy a tractor or any other tool to help farm their rice field,” he said.
Som Song, director of Chamroeun Phal Agricultural Cooperative in Battambang province’s Raing Kesai commune, said that the cooperative’s 288 rice farmers rely on its communal tractor for ploughing and harvesting land.
“The tractor is really a basic need for us and saves us a lot of labour and money, because when we have a tractor there is no need to hire a tractor from a businessman in the commune anymore,” he said.
Song explained that before the cooperative purchased a $28,000 tractor, its members used cows to harvest their rice fields. Together they were only able to cultivate 1,000 square metres per day, whereas now they can cover 60,000 square metres a day.
Local tractor dealers have reported strong sales of new equipment. Ngorn Saing, CEO for RMA (Cambodia) Co Ltd, exclusive local distributor of John Deere tractors, said his company sold about 300 tractors last year, a 30 per cent year-on-year increase. He projects similar growth in the coming year as farmers increasingly turn to mechanised farm help.
“The characteristics of farming are changing – there is a shortage of labour and the use of animal energy is limited, so the demand for tractors is increasing,” Ngorn said.
“Even though all farmers cannot afford their own tractors, they often rent tractors from other farmers in the commune who can afford one,” he added.
However, Chin Lin, sales manager at Mekong Agriculture Tractor Co, a local distributor of Mahindra and MTZ/Belarus brand tractors, insisted tractor sales were down for the whole market last year.
He declined to give company sales figures, but said fewer farmers could afford to buy tractors as the result of a recent decline in rice paddy prices.