Ten local companies on February 15 signed buy-sell agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with representatives of 16 agri-business clusters to supply 3,400 tonnes of produce and chicken meat valued at about $1.4 million.

The produce outlined in the deal includes mangoes, cassava, watermelon and “safe vegetables”, or those with a reduced dependence on chemicals that are free of microbiological hazards.

The contract farming agreements were signed at a ceremony presided over by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon.

Sakhon said his ministry has spared no effort in spurring farmers to increase production of vegetables, fish and meat to tally with local market demand.

He said: “A concerted effort from all parties was needed to achieve today’s sublime results, which underline another success story for the ministry and all stakeholders in helping increase incomes and create jobs, as well as in seizing opportunities to expand the potential of agricultural production and lead to reduced imports.

The minister suggested that signatories work together to put modern agricultural techniques into use and organise production clusters as well as storage and warehousing.

At the same time, he called on all stakeholders to strive and expand the market, as well as strengthen mechanisms to provide quality-control services, quality labels and QR codes; to better implement good agricultural practices; and to shore up consumption of safe agricultural products.

The agreements are part of the department’s Agriculture Services Programme for Innovation, Resilience and Extension (ASPIRE) project, which is supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Cambodia.

According to an ASPIRE report, there are currently 1,920 diversified business clusters with 61,735 member households across Phnom Penh and 23 provinces.

At the end of last year, there were 259 farming communities and 432 farming groups that implement safe vegetable production, the General Directorate of Agriculture said in a report.

Kan Panharith, production manager at local agribusiness Davane Plc, which specialises in agricultural value chains and markets for food safety, told The Post last month that demand for local vegetables was on the rise during the health crisis.

He said favourable climatic factors have contributed to boost the growth of local vegetable production.

He called for more vegetable growing to capture market opportunities and reduce imports from abroad.

“Growing a good deal of a variety of vegetables would be a great help for farmers and distributors. Consumers want all kind of vegetables, [hence as of now] we can only bring them in from other countries to fill the gap,” he said.

According to Sakhon, the total area for vegetable cultivation in the Kingdom reached 57,208ha at the end of 2019, which yielded 681,099 tonnes that year.

Vegetable production climbed to 716,113 tonnes last year, which Sakhon said was equivalent to 68 per cent of total domestic demand.

However, he pointed out that the Kingdom still needed to import 329,612 tonnes of vegetables.