The Kingdom imported about $390 million worth of “agricultural fertilisers and agrochemicals” in the first 10 months of 2021, a 41 per cent rise year-on-year from $276 million, to help boost cultivation and increase yields, the Ministry of Commerce reported.

Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) vice-president Chan Sokheang told The Post on January 13 that, due to a jump in the costs of raw materials last year that drove up the prices of imported fertilisers, this growth would likely not be a true reflection of the year-on-year change in import volume.

“As for quantity, I doubt it went up, since farmers don’t seem to be using that much fertiliser. And then again, they’d likely be cutting down on consumption due to the rising prices,” he said, noting that domestic fertiliser production is limited to just small quantities of organic types.

Nonetheless, Tropicam Fruit and Vegetable Co Ltd CEO Hun Lak confirmed to The Post that demand for fertilisers was still kicking, fuelled by the growing momentum in the Cambodian agricultural sector.

“And that’s evident by just looking at agricultural exports in 2021, they ticked up. The rise in imports of fertilisers also indicates an uptrend in demand for their use in cultivation.

“But that does not inherently mean that we’d use them in a way that would endanger the health of consumers, rather we utilise them to the minimum extent possible, which is why our products manage to remain at high quality,” he said.

And like Lak pointed out, agricultural exports did indeed tick up in 2021, surging by 63.83 per cent to 7,984,251.83 tonnes – from 3,110,790.73 tonnes a year earlier – and generating $4,967,852,713, according to a note posted by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon early this month.

The minister cited a preliminary summary compiled from data from the National Phytosanitary Database, a unit under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

And although no more recent official figures are available, the agriculture ministry reported on August 9 that the Kingdom imported 47,409 tonnes of “agrochemicals” and 858,632 tonnes of “agricultural fertilisers” in January-May 2021, which it called a “sharp” increase year-on-year.

The ministry said local prices for these products rose in 2021 as Cambodian demand outpaced international supply, and major producers such as China, Malaysia and the UAE ran out of the necessary raw materials, among a host of other reasons.

The fertiliser industries of countries such as China, Thailand and Vietnam were also forced to reduce their workforce amid Covid-19 outbreaks, which prompted restrictions that, amid other repercussions, led to bottlenecks in transport and logistics, it added.

The commerce ministry earlier reported that Cambodia imported $327.57 million worth of “agricultural fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides” in 2020, up 1.25 per cent from $323.54 million in 2019.

Similarly, the agriculture ministry has said imports of “agrochemicals” and “agricultural fertilisers” in 2020 weighed in at 103,005 and 1,406,775 tonnes, respectively.

These figures and designations imply that the cumulative average price for these latter two items was at least $216.96 per tonne that year, where the difference to the true figure depends on the value of “agrochemical” imports that were not accounted for in the commerce ministry’s “agricultural fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides” category.

These may include – among other substances – plant growth hormones and regulators, liming and acidifying agents, soil conditioners and evaporation suppressants.