The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is developing a policy to promote the use of machinery in large- and small-scale farms.
The move serves to address a growing labour shortage as the Kingdom’s economy continues to grow and young people abandon family farms in favour of better salaries in the city.
The director-general of the General Department of Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, Hean Vanhan, said that while 90 percent of the rice industry uses heavy machinery, the rest of the agriculture sector needs to catch up if it wanted to compensate for the labour shortage.
“Machinery in the agriculture sector plays an important role to replace the shortage of labour, especially when the economy continues to grow.
“The ministry is working on a policy to promote the modernisation of agriculture. This will help farmers speed up their production process,” Vanhan said.
However, Vanhan said the ministry is also working to help small-scale farmers and others who can’t absorb the financial burden of purchasing modern machinery.
“Modernisation is challenging for small-scale famers who can hardly afford the cost of machinery. Hence, Agriculture Department officials are working to provide training and organising agricultural cooperatives so farmers can share the equipment costs,” he said
The latest Ministry of Agriculture report, released earlier this year, says that the number of tractors operating in the Kingdom stood at 20,071, with an additional 366,253 two-wheeled power tillers in use. This was an increase of 9.5 percent and 6.5 percent since last year.
The report also highlighted that a total of 52,612 milling machines, 232 rice dryers and 367,172 water pumps were in use across the country.
Cambodia Rice Federation Vice President Hun Lak said transforming from traditional to modern farming methods was important to compete in the international market. But, he said, modernisation came at a very high cost and some farmers would be better served with proper irrigation systems.
“Modernising farms will produce higher quality agriculture produce and even boost production, but it is still too costly for most small-scale farmers as they lack education and money,” he said.
Va Saroeurn, president of the Mongkol Agricultural Development Cooperative in Battambang province’s Sangke district, said using modern farming methods in his area had grown by 50 percent over time.
But most farmers, he said, took high-interest loans to buy their tractors. He expressed concern that taking such purchasing risks will come to naught if the farms lacked proper irrigation.
“In Sangke, 50 percent of the farms use tractors to speed up harvesting. But our main challenge is the shortage of proper irrigation. It doesn’t matter if we have have tractors if water is scarce,” Saroeurn said.