To enhance Cambodian rice yields, the government should encourage private development of rice-seed production and focus its efforts on farmers’ education and regulations that ensure the quality of seed, industry experts say.
The Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), under the direction of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (MAFF) is the main source of high-quality seeds for distribution to Cambodian farmers.
According to David Van, deputy secretary-general of the Alliance of Rice Producers and Exporters of Cambodia, MAFF does not have the resources to supply enough high-quality seed.
Van estimates CARDI supplies only 20 to 25 per cent of the seed demand.
“The government could play a better role in facilitating trade for the private sector: just untie the bottlenecks and the private sector will automatically zoom in, because they know what needs to be done,” he said.
While appealing to MAFF to remove obstacles that may inhibit private investment in the sector, Van is also keen to ensure Cambodia has robust regulations to protect its farmers from genetically modified seeds.
“MAFF needs to ensure that whatever seeds the private sector brings in have to be non-GMO [genetically modified organisms],” he said.
“Even for a stringent market like the EU they have no problem with hybrid, but they have very firm restrictions on GMO, and so far, Cambodia has been fully compliant with all these non-GMO requirements.”
Cambodia-based independent agricultural analyst Srey Chanthy says high-quality seeds can also be sourced through some NGOs, but lower-quality Vietnamese seeds are commonly used.
Chanthy says farmers also lack the knowledge to recognise seed quality, and often use seeds from previous harvests, resulting in a seasonal paddy decline.
“Farmers don't have the skills to keep good-quality seeds, because they must know the varieties well,” he said.
As well as promoting greater comp-etition from imports, Chanthy would like to see more education for farmers.
“The other thing the government should do is to give farmers better training in the area of seed selection.”
After a number of attempts, MAFF declined to comment.