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E-commerce an untapped driver of rural agriculture

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Rice sales in the local market in Phnom Penh. POST STAFF

E-commerce an untapped driver of rural agriculture

The increasing integration of rural agriculture communities and resources into the e-commerce world has become a new driving force to raise domestic incomes, stimulate economic growth and spur domestic agricultural production, industry insiders have said.

Mak Chamroeun, chairman of value chain management company AgriBee (Cambodia) Plc, told The Post that the development of e-commerce in agriculture would be “necessary” to empower and expand the sector.

He explained that a recent study had found that about 80 per cent of the more than three million farmers living in relatively populated areas had significantly limited knowledge of electronic technology.

He said e-commerce in agriculture and the greater digital ecosystem have helped cut down business costs through substantial contributions in areas such as communications and transportation, and led to increased awareness and adoption of fintech in the agricultural sector, compelling farmers to spend money in a more targeted manner, thereby mitigating debt burdens.

“For me, the development of e-commerce or technology in agriculture is essential, to be able to take agriculture to the next level. When we develop agri e-commerce or marketplaces, that contributes to the expansion of markets for farmers and producers of agricultural products, both domestically and internationally,” he said.

Tropicam Fruit and Vegetable Co Ltd CEO Hun Lak argued that in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, every sector in every country must strive to keep up with the times, and that the Cambodian agricultural sector is no different.

He said that Cambodian farmers’ knowledge and adoption of digital technology for business remains limited, and that remedying the situation would require a considerable amount of time and many workshops to reach out to growers in areas with agricultural potential, especially those in remote rural locations.

“The use of e-commerce is becoming more and more important in the context of the Covid-19. In the agricultural sector, neither growers, sellers of agricultural products, nor consumers have to meet in person to trade goods thanks to this technology,” Lak said.

Yang Saing Koma, a popular agricultural expert among farmers, highlighted the benefit of technological advances, but stressed that consumers and especially growers must capitalise on the opportunities and trends which emerge as a result, to ensure that agriculture can keep pace with other emerging sectors that have logged rapid growth propelled by e-commerce.

“Most of us Cambodians have smartphones in our hands, but rarely do we put them to work for our advantage. For instance, farmers with smartphones should learn more about how to search for market information and communicate when it comes to selling agricultural products – that’ll help save them loads of time. But we’ve seen that their understanding today is still limited,” he said.

Citing a 2021 Mekong Strategic Partners report, the Ministry of Commerce on March 28 noted that “about 45 per cent” of rural farmers are believed to have access to smartphones, and that the total number of farmers using mobile phones was on the rise.

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