The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is conducting detailed studies into domestic fertiliser production and associated challenges before drawing up strategies that would help them stay competitive, according to its secretary of state Yang Saing Koma.

He said on April 2, following a visit to a fertiliser manufacturing facility in Kampong Speu province the previous day, that Cambodia has many small and medium production facilities, and officials are conducting studies to assess how the local fertiliser compares to imported versions.

“We are studying the potential of domestic fertilisers, in terms of quantity, quality and pricing. We want to lay out a strategy that will ensure that Cambodia can produce high-quality domestic products. The research will take some time, however,” he said.

He could not say how many domestic fertiliser production facilities are operating in the country, as the ministry is still gathering statistics

Saing Koma said most of the facilities used plant matter and cow dung, with some adding small quantities of chemicals to promote the growth of crops.

He added that domestic fertiliser manufacturers faced several challenges.

“Some provide low nutrition, which does not appeal to farmers as they want high yields. In addition, the costs of raw materials, such as animal dung, are high, increasing production costs and amplifying capital shortages,” he explained.

However, he said the ministry would continue to encourage the production and use of domestic organic fertilisers to reduce imports and use of chemicals that affected soil quality.

King Ratana, CEO of Vong Sarom Agritrading Co Ltd, said that since the Covid-19 crisis, the prices of agricultural fertilisers and insecticides had risen. They had grown even higher as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“My company is seeking input in fertiliser manufacturing techniques from our partners in Turkey, Israel and India,” he added.

“We have asked foreign parties for technical assistance, but the machines for making fertiliser are too expensive. Therefore, we are reconsidering. We have asked the agriculture ministry to support our project, as it would reduce imports from abroad,” he added.

He expected demand for fertiliser and insecticide to increase this year, as farmers were seeing higher market prices for their crops.

For reference the Ministry of Commerce reported that the Kingdom imported more than $480 million worth of agricultural fertilisers and pesticides in 2022, registering an increase of about six per cent on 2021.

By comparison, data from the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE) indicate that Cambodia imported “fertilisers” and “miscellaneous chemical products” (which includes pesticides) to the tune of $276.523 million and $593.407 million in 2022, respectively, down 3.62 per cent and up 40.90 per cent over 2021. These correspond to chapters 31 and 38 of the Harmonised System (HS).

Trading Economics data similarly shows that, in 2021, Cambodia imported “fertilisers” worth a total of $286.91 million, of which $152.03 million was from Vietnam, $90.04 million from Thailand, $28.01 million from mainland China, and $5.58 million from Japan.