A farmer dumps a bucket of corn onto a pile in a field on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in early February 2013. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
Farmers have expressed concern over local brokers’ manipulation of the market during harvest season, reducing buying prices for farmers who have no access to actual market rates.
A representative from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party has asked for the resignation of the minister of commerce, citing his alleged inability to regulate markets.
Along the Mekong River in Kratie province, fields are bare of crops.
While some farmers have already completed their harvests, others have left their fields barren, fearing brokers will reduce corn prices, as yields are low this year due to the lack of floods.
Keat Phally, 64, grows corn in both dry and wet seasons in Tabos village, Bos Leav commune of Chet Borei district.
He said that this year red corn yields were meagre, but he was waiting on brokers’ prices.
Phally, who has two hectares of land, said that last year’s corn prices stood at 1,000 to 1,200 riel per kilogram, while corn on the husk sold at 600 riel per kilogram.
Phally said: “The brokers drop the prices when they come to buy. The biggest challenge is reducing the prices by brokers. They said things that make the farmers feel mad, such as saying the corn price has declined [at real market price].
“When we face such problems, [we are really worried], because we depend on this work for living, especially during the harvest season.”
Phally’s wife, Chhin Noeun, 62, said that the brokers use several tactics to reduce prices.
“Some farmers believe them but some feel not sure because they hear on the radio that there will be more demand,” she said. “So the farmers try to maintain the price by themselves.”
She added that she thinks radio announcements reporting current market prices, especially regarding local production and export demand, are of great help to farmers.
The Bangkok Post reported on January 22 that the Thai government approved the import of 450,000 tonnes of corn duty free from Cambodia and Laos.
Of this number, 25,000 tonnes will be imported from Cambodia in August and at the end of next year.
Sar Chamrong, deputy governor of Kratie province, said the farmers in his province prefer farming corn along the river, especailly in Sambo and Chet Borei districts, adding that most of the crops have been sold to both domestic and Vietnamese buyers.
According to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodian farmers grew corn on 184,872 hectares of land in 2012 and produced 770,860 tonnes in yields in 2012.
In Kratie province, farmers produced 4,153 tonnes of corn on 2,009 hectares of land.
Farmers say that on one hectare of fertile land, they can produce four tonnes of crop, but on land that is less fertile, they can produce only 2 tonnes.
According to Phally, to grow crops on one hectare, he spends nearly two million riel.
“If the corn price rises to 1,200 or 1,300 riel per kilogram, the income [increases] so we feel happy because we have a lot of money,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Rann Reuy at [email protected]