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‘Agriculture a low priority’

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A farmer waters his crop at a farm in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district. POST PIX

‘Agriculture a low priority’

The priority for agriculture development in Cambodia seems to be low compared to other sectors such as the tourism and the garments, said an Asian Development Bank (ADB) Independent Evaluation Report.

ADB said in a press release on Thursday that the Kingdom’s agricultural sector had not seen the high impetus it needs. It has been stagnant due to a lack of irrigation.

Andrew Brubaker, principle evaluation specialist at ADB’s Independent Evaluation Department, said Cambodia currently has insufficient investments in agricultural research, which is an issue among other Asian countries as well.

ADB’s concessional credit growth has supported major operations, in general focusing on water-related infrastructure, said the report.

Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology under-secretary of state Chann Sinath said during the Reaping the Harvest discussion hosted by ADB in Phnom Penh on Thursday that there are about 3,000 irrigation system projects in Cambodia that have helped lessen the impact of floods and droughts.

Most of the projects have gradually been renovated and restored, he said. However, they are mainly in sandy areas.

“This is a major issue keeping water conservation in Cambodia low,” he said.

He said in addition to effective restoration and management, irrigation systems in the Kingdom need to be modernised.

“The effective management of water resources will provide farmers with access to water. That will help create investment opportunities and help Cambodia achieve its goal of increasing the agricultural products,” Sinath said.

He said ADB’s assistance has contributed significantly to the government increasing irrigation capacity to boost the Kingdom’s agriculture.

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries secretary-general Srey Vuthy said although Cambodia’s rice sector has been identified by the government as a priority sector for years, it currently continues to face many challenges.

“In the past, the government had done a lot of work to manage water for the agricultural sector. It needs ample water and if there is enough of it, agriculture productivity can increase."

“Currently, the sector is in the transitional stage of labour decrease. The ministry will ask the relevant entities to join in to help boost the potential of the agricultural sector,” Vuthy stressed.

The Kingdom’s agricultural sector has shown signs of slowing down since 2014, when GDP for agriculture was about 30 per cent, according to Vuthy.

However, he said, the number has fallen to 22-23 per cent since then.

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