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A worker holds freshly harvested rice in a paddy in Russei Keo district
A worker holds freshly harvested rice in a paddy in Russei Keo district late on Monday afternoon. Vireak Mai

CNRP calls for government intervention in agriculture

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has called on the government to intervene in the softening prices of Cambodian agricultural commodities.

In a letter passed to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday, via National Assembly president Heng Samrin, a group of opposition lawmakers has raised concerns over the impact falling prices of products such as rice, rubber and mung beans are having on the livelihoods of Cambodian farmers.

“The fall of prices of Cambodian commodities at this time is due to lower price offers from middlemen without any ministry intervening,” the letter said. “This issue is making farmers lose out and is seriously affecting people’s living condition,” the letter continues.

The letter said that prices fetched for local products were notably lower than in recent years and were less than that of prices paid for the same products in neighbouring countries.

Contacted yesterday, CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay said that middlemen, or traders, from Vietnam and Thailand would often collude among each other to lower prices.

Buyers were holding out to buy crops at the end of the harvest cycle when farmers had less bargaining power and needed to sell their produce to pay back loans taken out at the beginning of the season, Chhay said.

“Our farmers always have financial issues so that they need to sell out at lower prices,” he said.

“So this issue cannot be solved by the farmers themselves, it is necessary that the government intervene,” he added.

Chhay said that the government, and in particular the Ministry of Commerce, needed to better coordinate efforts among other ministries to develop policies that encourage processing facilities in rural areas and support rural debt.

Spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce Ken Ratha said yesterday that the government is aware of the problems facing Cambodian farmers and the ministry was in the process of restructuring and formulating an action plan to better address the issues.

The Commerce Ministry is currently researching agricultural prices in provincial areas with the aim of monitoring them against international market prices, Ratha said.

“Indeed, it has been in the government’s action plan regarding these issues, it is just that we cannot have action immediately,” Ratha said. “We need some time to show what we can do and what we can handle.”

Independent economist Srey Chanthy said that a government policy that encompasses warehousing of agricultural products would help smooth price fluctuations and give farmers greater bargaining power.

But agricultural investment and access to finance were areas the government needed to act on, Chanty said.

“For the medium and the long term, the government needs to set up a good policy tool that attracts more investment in the processing industry and that can facilitate reasonable capital for farmers via low interest rate loans,” he said.

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