The CEO of RMA Cambodia, the Cambodia dealer for the world’s largest agricultural equipment company, John Deere, says three main elements that will revolutionise Cambodia’s agriculture industry: mechanisation, irrigation and fertilisers.
“This is why part of our strategy is to do the right continuous gap analysis in any field we are in. In agriculture, we realised that there are three angles that surely can make a difference and bridge current gaps that are now obstacles for agriculture in Cambodia in general: mechanisation, irrigation technologies and safe usage of fertilisers,” he said.
RMA Cambodia, which is also the Ford dealer and the owner of The Pizza Company and Swenson’s Ice Cream in Cambodia, is working with Cambodia’s Agriculture Engineering Department of the Ministry of Agriculture to provide training to Cambodian farmers about mechanization awareness.
“Everybody who invests in agriculture in Cambodia should come and invest in these three things, which constitute a golden triangle for agricultural development in Cambodia,” he said.
“Why should a piece of land with the same climate in neighbouring countries give 2-3 harvests, while in Cambodia, we might only have one harvest.”
The pilot projects facilitated by RMA are part of the research and development activities of equipment companies that want to develop technologies that can adapt to Cambodian farmers’ needs.
One of the solutions RMA came up with for Cambodia was for small farmers to use smaller tractors jointly.
Sharaf says better harvester technology will result in a lower percentage of damaged crops and a higher yield for the farmer and a better GDP for the country.
“The way milled rice is priced or coded is by which percentage of it is broken. If we upgrade our mechanisation to better harvesters, our loss is less, our price is higher, our branding of our Cambodian crops is better and all that will be translated into dollars at the end of the day.
“What differentiates RMA is always our on-site training and after-sales service, for which we have a fleet of equipped units that visit the field and do the right maintenance.”
Sharaf said the biggest problem in agricultural mechanisation is financial.
“Sometimes it is a short term financing which is only the cycle time between plowing, seeding and harvesting. I want to send a message to all banks in Cambodia: I know that some of them are taking this initiative of supporting some of these farmers. I asked them to lend a hand, come with some financial solutions, both short and long term, with flexible terms and conditions to help the upgrading and the improvement and development of Cambodia’s agriculture by supporting these farmers and helping them to obtain the latest mechanisation technologies available,” he said.
Another focus for the support of agriculture is irrigation technology.
“In Cambodia we have a dry season and for certain crops this is not utilised. In neighbouring countries where they are ahead with irrigation technologies, they are utilising the same piece of land with the same climate, but gaining two and three harvests by the usage of the latest irrigation technologies.”
Sharaf said farmers of all sizes could get a solution for the production of rice, sugar cane, cassava or any other crop.
“Cambodia is blessed with rivers compared to African countries where the source of water in itself is a problem. Here we have the source of water and we can bring the water by simple dripping for the single farmer or automated and remotely controlled satellite net connected systems,” he said.
Sharaf says the Cambodian government and the private sector should get together to create a state of the art test facility and laboratory to make sure Cambodian products comply with international standards.
“The safe use of fertilisers and pesticides has a direct impact on the promotion and export of Cambodian agricultural products. There are tight regulations on the international buyers of agricultural products. Pesticide residue tests should be available and any usage of unsafe fertilisers will mean the blockage and the rejection of the Cambodian products.”
Sharaf wants to help create the agricultural lab in order to provide services to farms.
“This would be like a passport and visa for Cambodian agricultural projects internationally by having these products tested and certified as safe and consistent.”
Because many farmers were operating without much extra money, Sharaf said some of the crops are organic because they haven’t been grown with fertilisers and that could be used to ask for a higher price.
“If we get that lab in place and we can prove that these products are organic and none of the unsafe chemical fertilisers and pesticides were used this will give us the chance to price and promote these products at high prices since the demand for real organic, safe products is high.”
Leading agricultural machinery manufacturers from the USA have chosen Cambodia as the country in which to test new types of equipment, Sharaf says. “We also collaborate with the Royal University of Agriculture to develop educational programs in agriculture engineering open for internship and training programs.”