Cambodia's first hybrid corn CHM01 will be released to the domestic market later this month in a bid to reduce dependence on imported varieties for animal feed, according to Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon.

The move follows more than 200 performance trials in 2014-2020 and a December 29 memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the ministry and the Korean Project for International Agriculture Centre (KOPIA) in Cambodia, he said.

The MoU on technical cooperation on producing and promoting the CHM01 seeds in the Kingdom aims to strengthen the capacity of researchers and the development of additional hybrid corn varieties, he added.

The deal was penned by KOPIA in Cambodia director Kim Yong-hwan and Ngin Chhay, director-general of the ministry’s General Directorate of Agriculture.

Under the MoU, the two sides will devise a model for the production and distribution of the seeds to farmers as well as public presentations and outreach in major provinces to boost understanding and acceptance.

Corn is classified as the third most important crop after rice and cassava, with the potential for export and domestic supply for animal feed, human food and other products.

The ministry registered CHM01 for public use in May last year.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Chhay said the MoU seeks to shore up the use and trade of the hybrid cultivar on the domestic market and curtail imports, noting that the deal’s underlying project will run from January 2021 to December 2023.

“We will continue to experiment with new hybrid corn varieties to meet market demand and will expand seed production as much as possible to distribute to farmers, leading them to do business – selling them [the hybrids] to other farmers instead of imported seeds,” Chhay said.

Under the MoU, he said, a directorate working group will prepare large-scale presentations on CHM01 across target key provinces and engage farmers through sundry activities to gain acceptance for public use.

He said the directorate’s research has found that CHM01 is resistant to climate change and downy mildew (DM) and yields 8.60 tonnes per hectare, which is higher than imported hybrid varieties.

Ouk Makara, former director of the Cambodia Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), told The Post that CHM01 would provide a boon for the Kingdom’s animal feed processing industry.

“KOPIA’s project will help promote the commercial use of this variety of corn in our country,” he said.

Phen Noeun, a red corn farmer in Battambang province’s northwesternmost Sampov Loun district on nearly half a hectare, welcomed the new cultivar, which he expects will cost him less than the 1,000 baht ($33.50) he said he spends for 10kg of corn seed imported from Thailand each season.

“We will use our corn seeds when they sell here. I hope our corn seeds will be cheaper than imported ones,” he said.

There are currently 18 domestic animal feed processing mills operating in Cambodia, with a total production capacity of more than 1.2 million tonnes per year, accounting for 56 per cent of the country’s total supply, according to the director-general of the ministry’s General Directorate of Animal Health and Production Tan Pannara.

And as of December 29, corn harvest area stood at 154,598ha with a total annual yield of 735,551 tonnes, according to a report from the directorate.