Diverging sharply from the typical complaints heard from Cambodia’s farmers about finding buyers for their crops, one small market for domestic agricultural produce is struggling to meet demand because area farmers are selling so much of their produce to traders and brokers and too little is left over for local shoppers.

Not only that, but the traders who they do business with say they would buy even more of the farmers’ output if they are able to grow more crops next season as well.

Two Cambodian farmers working under the Aspire project – with one living in Kratie province and the other in Siem Reap province – are happy to continue to growing their crops and even increasing their amount of land under cultivation because a market for their produce exists, but they’ve now discovered that market demands and what they end up producing are sometimes far different.

Chheav Hong in Siem Reap province’s Sotr Nikum district started to grow his crops in 2000, but back then he didn’t have much knowledge about the way to plant or take care of his crops. Also, he often found it difficult to find a market to sell his products – the quality of them was lacking, he admits.

Then beginning in 2017, he started growing safe crops with the Aspire project. Planting on 6ha, he grew a variety of crops and also managed to create better balance between the supply of his land. He was able to dig out a pond to raise fish, build coops to raise chickens and grow safe vegetables on a large portion of his land using low cost net houses that protect the produce from the withering Cambodian heat.

With this new crop rotation and additional produce items, he was able to generate hundreds of millions of riel per year and he now intended to expand his land further and grow an even greater variety of crops.

“In 2019, my income was down slightly as I earned just 400 million riel that year. In 2020-2021, my income saw a slight increase as I earned 460 million riel. But for this year I project that I am on track to earn up to 660 million riel,” he said.

“The local market we supply every day takes about 40 per cent of my produce, but traders keep asking for our products and we don’t have enough produce to supply all of them, so I plan to expand to another 6ha at least,” he added.

Farmer Bok Veng of Kratie province stared to grow crops on a family scale farm and then he expanded his land under cultivation to grow produce to sell to the market. The 56-year-old farmer expanded from growing crops on 5ha to 10ha in 2019 under the Aspire project. When he succeeded by growing those crops, he just planted more and grew even more crops. Now he has so far expanded to 20ha of land under cultivation and his crops are checked and are able to pass the international quality standards, which he felt was a key reason why he is selling them all out.

“When collecting vegetables, I sell them to the provincial town, but I always have traders waiting to buy them. Sometimes they’ll take my vegetables and truck them over to supply them to Mondulkiri province,” he said.

“I want to expand my lands to grow more crops because every day I find that this amount of land is too small. I don’t have enough vegetables to meet the market needs! They keep asking me for more vegetables and if I had more then I’d make more money, simple as that,” he added.

He said that his 20ha earns him eight million riel a month, including the vegetables inside and outside the net houses.

The two farmers have set a good example for other farmers to follow so that they will look to grow quality and high-standard crops for sale to traders and so that their products will be sold widely to the domestic and even international markets.

Meeting with people who were willing to relocate from the Angkor Archaeological Park to the Run Ta Ek eco-village, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that farmers in this new area could grow crops and raise animals and sell them all domestically without having to export them.

“We export crops on the ground without having to export them abroad. This is a good opportunity for domestic farmers to leverage existing markets,” he said.