The total value of agricultural fertilisers and pesticides imported into Cambodia in 2022 was valued at more than $480 million, an increase of six per cent over the previous year, according to a report by the Ministry of Commerce.

Yang Saing Koma, secretary of state for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, explained that the increase in agriculture fertiliser imports was driven by a persistent shortfall in supply from domestic production, which he stressed could impact farmers’ production costs.

To address the issue, he said the agriculture ministry has encouraged the private sector to increase production of fertiliser locally to supply farmers. It has also urged farmers to learn to make natural fertiliser, or compost, which he said would not only reduce costs but also keep their produce safe for consumption.

“An increase in agriculture fertiliser prices could also be an opportunity to teach farmers to save money by using their own raw materials such as animal dung, leaves, silt or humus to make natural fertiliser for their crops.

“Some farmers are stuck in a mindset of wanting everything to be fast and easy and there is a lack of practical-minded leaders such as agricultural officials and experts from various organisations. That is why this year the government has arranged for agricultural experts to visit different communes in person and help farmers solve all these problems,” he said.

However, Hur Thinearng, general manager at Angkor Green Investment and Development Co Ltd and an agricultural fertiliser specialist, said the domestic demand for fertilisers and pesticides decreased noticeably last year because local farmers were largely unable to carve out a viable market for their produce so they cut costs and production, especially their use of fertilisers.

“The import of agricultural fertiliser is still increasing as domestic production is still limited. Recently, the agriculture ministry has encouraged local fertilider production. It’s a good sign and an opportunity for farmers because we have the raw materials for production. Then, together with the support from the ministry, local production would be able to materialise and their production costs would decrease as a result,” he said.

According to Thinearng, in order for farms to produce quality crops as well as remain profitable and sustainable, farmers need to increase their understanding of using synthetic compound substances along with natural fertilisers to avoid damaging the soil’s quality and their crops, which might not be able to compete in the export markets unless quality is sufficient.

King Ratana, CEO at Vong Sarom Agritrading Co Ltd, said that since the Covid-19 crisis, and after the Ukraine conflict began, the prices of fertilisers and pesticides have both risen constantly.

Ratana said that last year his company’s importation of fertilisers and pesticides increased, so they proposed to their partners abroad such as those in Turkey, Israel and India that they help with instructing their farmers on techniques for producing agricultural fertilisers locally.

“We have requested technical assistance from foreign partners, but we were unable to prepare the production chain because the machines for producing fertiliser were too expensive. So, we are still considering this idea and we have also requested to meet with the agriculture minister to ask for additional support for our project in order to help reduce fertiliser imports,” he said.

At the height of the pandemic, the import of fertilisers and pesticides became prohibitively expensive because the producing countries could not meet market demand due to a lack of raw materials, reduced productivity of the labour force and increased times for transportation.