Cambodia's agricultural sector must improve post-harvest processing to increase the value of its products, while increased knowledge sharing could help farmers better understand the different value chains and identify opportunities, agricultural experts participating in the Grow Asia Forum said yesterday.
Panellists at the event, hosted by Grow Asia and held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Phnom Penh, also said improving farmers’ access to better seeds and inputs, as well as training, would help them to be more productive.
Grow Asia, a WEF initiative that facilitates multi-stakeholder collaboration for the benefit of smallholder farmers in five Asean countries, aims to reach 10 million smallholder farmers and enable them to increase their yield and profits by 20 percent by 2020, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water usage.
Its Cambodia Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (CPSA), a collaborative effort with the Ministry of Agriculture launched in May 2016, has used the past year to consult with stakeholders, align priorities and establish value chain projects that will address the urgent needs of smallholder farmers.
To date, the CPSA and its 57 partners in government, civil society and the private sector have developed projects across six priority crops: rice, sugar, pepper, cassava, coconut and vegetables.“These projects aim to tackle the challenges through capacity building, knowledge transfer and market creation,” according to Grahame Dixie, executive director of Grow Asia.
He said such efforts require a multi-stakeholder collaborative approach, and CPSA provides a suitable platform to facilitate it and engender meaningful and effective partnerships.According to Dixie, Grow Asia plans to focus over the next year on implementing value chain projects and exploring opportunities to scale up.
Agriculture accounts for about a third of Cambodia’s GDP and provides employment for more than half of the country’s workforce.
Addressing the forum, Agriculture Minister Veng Sokhon said Cambodia has the potential to increase agricultural production, but the sector still faces many challenges. Among these are low productivity, lack of irrigation systems, high infrastructure costs, limited agricultural technologies and techniques, and poor access to finance by farmers.
“On the path to agricultural development we are still meeting some challenges,” he said. “The main issue is the cost and market [access] for farmers. However, our government is taking measures to solve these challenges step by step.”
Sokhon said the government was working to reduce the high costs of production, electricity and transport. He added that the government has a plan to develop a new deepsea port for agricultural products, and will inaugurate the Sesan dam next February, which will lower the cost of electricity.