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Mekong River agriculture project yields just 60 tonnes of vegetables

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A farmer harvests ridged Luffa (Luffa acutangula) in Chroy Changvar district’s Prek Leap village in 2016. Pha Lina

Mekong River agriculture project yields just 60 tonnes of vegetables

A $20 million food production project in the Mekong River provinces is yielding just 60 tonnes of vegetables a day out of its 160-tonne daily goal, a Ministry of Agriculture official said.

The ministry’s Boosting Food Production programme – a three-year initiative launched in mid-2016 to support crop production along the Mekong River – which had set a goal of supplying the local market with 160 tonnes of vegetables per day following quality and safety standards, will come to an end by the close of next year.

Reinvigorating vegetable farming

The ministry’s Department of Horticulture and Subsidiary Crops deputy director Kean Sophea said 2,060 farmers and 260 rice cooperatives in the provinces along the Mekong River are part of the project.

The three-year programme, he said, served to reinvigorate vegetable farming following the Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) standards that were created by the ministry. It focussed on 13 priority crops that include lettuce, chilli, bok choy, tomato, cucumber and zucchini.

Sophea expects the community will be able to supply 100 tonnes per day by the end of next year when the project is finished.

“[Under the] GAP, vegetables are currently getting more support from local consumers, even if it is a bit more expensive. They trust the local produce,” he said, adding that farmers also understand farming techniques better which leads to attaining higher yields and improved quality.

Contract farming

The Kingdom consumes 500 tonnes of vegetables per day, at a daily cost of between $200,000 and $300,000.

Cambodia imports about 40 per cent of its fruits and vegetables at an annual cost of around $200 million, mainly from Vietnam, which is notorious among locals for containing unsafe chemicals and pesticides.

Sun Sokheng, a farmer who joined the project and has been cultivating crops on 0.5ha, said after joining the project, his annual yield increased from 10 tonnes to 13 tonnes. He now earns between $2,000 and $4,000 in additional profits a year.

“We’re learning a lot about farming following the GAP. And we can sell at better prices. But farmers need to have contract farming, which will guarantee our livelihood."

“We currently face some challenges such as pests and the fact that the market is not secure for us . . . Our buyers are not willing to sign any contract farming with us,” he said.

Hach Hean, a local buyer, said he collects at least 500kg of vegetables daily, but cannot make contracts with the farmers, as he faces competition in importing vegetables.

“Even if I could sell at a better price, I am still not able to enter into contract farming as I have to compete with the prices of other vegetable suppliers, who import vegetables at lower prices,” he said.

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