Vegetable production for the domestic market increased significantly last year, buoyed by government efforts to shore up the agricultural sector amid Covid-19, according to Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon.

He said the government supports the people and encourages them to devote more resources toward the cultivation of safe, good-quality fruits and vegetables to supply to the domestic market and reduce imports.

As a result, the total area for vegetable cultivation in the Kingdom reached 57,208ha at the end of 2019, which yielded 681,099 tonnes that year, according to the minister.

Last year, vegetable production climbed to 716,113 tonnes, which Sakhon said was equivalent to 68 per cent of total domestic demand.

However, he pointed out that the Kingdom still needed to import 329,612 tonnes of vegetables.

With good cooperation with development partners and the private sector, Sakhon said the ministry hopes that Cambodia will in the near future boast enough safe vegetables to supply the local market and exports.

He said: “In addition, the ministry has paid attention to studies and research on the possibility of expanding the production of some important vegetables such as Chinese and white cabbage, carrots, white potatoes and garlic grown in Mondulkiri province, as a geographical area characterised with the potential to produce these essential vegetables and contribute to meeting rising demand.”

Kan Panharith, production manager at local agribusiness Davane Plc, which specialises in agricultural value chains and markets for food safety, noted that demand for local vegetables was on the rise during the health crisis.

He said favourable climatic factors have contributed to boost the growth of local vegetable production.

Davane, whose name stands for “Develop Agriculture Value Chain Network for Economic and Environment”, pitches itself as a specialist in agricultural and market value chains that locally promotes safe fruits and vegetables.

Panharith said: “We see that the supply of local vegetables is very large and there is a lot of supports for local products during the Covid-19 outbreak.”

He called for more vegetable growing to capture market opportunities and reduce imports from abroad.

“Growing a good deal of a variety of vegetables would be a great help for farmers and distributors. Consumers want all kind of vegetables, [hence as of now] we can only bring them in from other countries to fill the gap,” he said.

Now working with four partners, Davane today operates a supermarket in Phnom Penh that stocks vegetables, fruits, fish and meat and is looking for additional partners to open new branches across the provinces, especially those with plenty of untapped tourism potential, according to Panharith.

Studies by the agriculture ministry and the Ministry of Economy and Finance have found that Cambodian vegetable imports from neighbouring countries are to the tune of $200 million per annum.