A chicken looks out from a pen on Buth Chantha’s chicken farm in Prey Phdao village, in Kampong Speu province.
BUTH Chantha’s chicken farm is unlike most farms in Cambodia. His chickens don’t wander about freely. Instead, they are kept in large battery huts at the rear of the property where their food and water intake is carefully regulated.
“Right now, we have 20,000 chickens,” says Buth Chantha, 35, who used to raise pigs but gave that business up in 2005 because “the market wasn’t very good”.
Now he raises chickens for the Charoen Pokphand Group (CP), a Thai-based company that claims to be one of Asia’s leading conglomerates. According to its website, its sales reached more than US$18 billion in 2009.
Buth Chantha’s farm, in the village of Prey Phdao, is one of CP’s many suppliers in Cambodia.
The company provides Buth Chantha with feed and baby chicks, which he tends until they are the requisite size. CP buys only chickens that weigh between 1.8kg and 2.4kg.
Now he aims to expand his business by returning to pig farming - but this time, with his market assured. “CP has agreed to buy all my pigs,” he says.
Just as with the chickens, Buth Chantha will raise CP’s piglets for four and a half months until they weigh 110kg, then sell them back to the company.
He plans to raise 1,600 pigs, provided he can secure the necessary loan from ACLEDA Bank.
This would not be the first time Buth Chantha has borrowed money from the bank. His transactions with ACLEDA stretch back 10 years to a time when it was still a micro-finance institution.
“At first, we took out a group loan for $500 to buy rice, because at that time we had a rice mill,” he says.
Buth Chantha has gradually extended his loans. This year, he took out a medium-sized loan of $60,000 to raise more chickens, but that’s not enough to fund his latest plans: he hopes to borrow a further $150,000.
“I haven’t finished this loan [for $60,000], but I will negotiate with the bank to get more money to raise pigs,” he says. “We need $80,000 to build the pig sties and $70,000 for the pigs and equipment.”
Although Buth Chantha is worried he will not be granted this further loan, he does have a contingency plan.
“If I cannot get that much money, I will take out a further medium-sized loan,” he says.
“I will need it soon, though, because right now the market demand is very high.”
Even though he expresses some concern about meeting his repayments, Buth Chantha has confidence in his business strategy.
“I have seen my friends be successful doing business like this and I already have experience on a small scale, so I know it will be successful,” he says.
“Right now, the agricultural sector has a lot of encouragement [from the government] and more people are successful.”
Regardless of ACLEDA Bank’s decision on a further loan, Buth Chantha has no intention of returning to his previous ways.
“In the agricultural sector, we can do small scale but we also get small profit,” he says. Clearly, this ambitious farmer isn’t a man to be satisfied with small profits. INTERPRETER: RANN REUY