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Government urged to move fast on draft organic food law

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A store attendant arranges organic bananas on a shelf at the Khmer Cooperative Organic shop in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Government urged to move fast on draft organic food law

The private sector has called on the government to speed up enacting the organic food law, which is currently languishing in the draft stage. Having the law, it said, will provide product recognition.

Ten Ra, the technical adviser on trade facilitation and standards for German development agency GIZ, said a national organic food law is an important key to build trust in the market.

While there are organic farms producing quality produce that has made its way into markets across the country, consumers still question the quality and safety of the food.

“Cambodia doesn’t have an organic law to certify products, so it is difficult to gain the trust of consumers.

“While farmers can attest to the quality and safety of their products, consumers fear buying them,” he said, adding that some organic producers spent a lot of money for international certification, which isn’t necessary for selling in the domestic market.

“Having our own organic law will be cheaper than obtaining international certification. The government should consider having the law passed as soon as possible to control the quality of such products and promote them locally too,” Ra said.

Kean Sophea, the deputy director for the Department of Horticulture and Subsidiary Crops in the Ministry of Agriculture, said the national organic bill has already completed the draft bill.

It is currently under review by a Ministry of Agriculture committee, which may take some time to finalise it as the bill contains about 60 articles.

“The bill is being analysed by a committee in the ministry, and only after they have completed the job can we make it available for public review,” Sophea said, adding that such a law is key to enforcing standards and monitoring quality.

When passed, he said the ministry will provide a logo to be stamped on the product to certify their quality, standard, and safety, and to weed out those who merely claim their food is organic.

“We have the mechanism to control the quality of organic food in order to build trust with markets and consumers,” Sophea said, adding that the ministry will encourage farmers to produce organic products by using proper techniques and with compost as fertiliser.

He said this will reduce the cost and raise production to meet market needs. Currently, organic products cost about 50 percent more than regular domestic and imported vegetables, due to a shortage of producers and low production.

Sam Vitou, an adviser to the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, an organisation that works with Cambodian farmers and who was at the first meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture last year to discuss proposed organic law, said it would help to promote and encourage organic farmers to be passionate about producing high-quality and safe produce.

“The law will ensure that the farmers’ produce is of high quality and safe. It will also encourage them to expand their farms and add value to their produce through better prices,” he said.

Currently Cambodia consumes 500 tonnes of vegetables a day, at a daily cost of between $200,000 and $300,000.

The Kingdom often imports vegetables, particularly from Vietnam, that are said to contain unsafe chemicals and pesticides.

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