A ceremony presided over by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina on June 27 marked the signing of 46 new contract farming agreements. This landmark event saw rice mills, farming communities and vegetable producers from Kampong Thom province join hands.

The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) announced that they have also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a microfinance institution (MFI). This move guarantees payment at harvest, securing the purchase of almost 20,000 tonnes of paddy rice and vegetables.

As per a press release by CRF, existing farming contracts include AMRU Rice (Cambodia) with 22 contracts equating to 3,000 tonnes; Signatures of Asia with eight contracts for 6,690 tonnes, and Kompong Thom Rice Mill 1688 with four contracts representing 2,020 tonnes.

Additional agreements involved BRM Agro for 2,928 tonnes, Chou Pheng rice mill for 1,180 tonnes, and Nguon Hong rice mill for 1,845 tonnes. An MoU was also signed between Signatures of Asia and the MFI, AMK Cambodia.

Speaking at the ceremony, Tina highlighted the concerted efforts of his ministry, the Agricultural and Rural Development Bank (ARDB), the CRF and other stakeholders towards improving contract farming.

“Contract farming requires that the parties – exporters, millers and community – have a clear respect for the contract and be honest with each other, meaning helping each other and helping yourself,” emphasised Tina.

The minister also encouraged the use of genetically pure rice varieties and proper farming techniques, hinting at plans for a new agricultural system.

Tina stated that the system will strengthen communities through the implementation of new policies by commune agricultural technical officers, focusing on transparency, accountability and community responsibility.

Furthermore, he assured farmers that cultivating genetically pure rice varieties will secure them better market prices and streamline the purchasing process for rice mills.

“To widely find the market, we need pure variety to get good yield and good price and bring them to rice mills. Crops must be of good quality and effectively grown. Organic rice consumption will not affect our health because we do not use chemical fertilisers, pesticides or other unsuitable techniques”.

Kampong Thom provincial governor Nguon Rattanak indicated that the new contracts would cover 10,000ha of the province’s 253,300ha used for rice cultivation, capable of yielding approximately 34,938 tonnes of rice and vegetables.

CRF president Chan Sokheang outlined the types of paddy rice included in the contracts. This encompasses 6,233 tonnes of Phka Rumduol, 2,890 tonnes of Sen Kra’op, 1,850 tonnes of OM rice, and 6,690 tonnes of short grain paddy rice, along with various quantities of vegetables.

Kao Thach, director-general of the ARDB, acknowledged the significant progress within the rice sector. However, he stressed that despite the sector’s adequate capacity to support the government’s rice export policy, challenges such as seed factors, seed purity, and capital shortage need to be addressed.

Song Saran, chairman of the CRF, saw the contract farming agreements as an important milestone for the agricultural sector.

“Through today’s contract farming, we will set a better example for other types of agricultural crops and help farmers balance their supply and selling prices, and through this contract farming, rice millers and exporters will be able to ensure a sustainable supply, production, processing and quality to meet the needs of customers,” Saran said.

According to agriculture ministry, since January, 91 contract farming agreements have been executed in Banteay Meanchey, Prey Veng, Battambang, Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear provinces. These contracts involve 14 rice millers and 91 farming communities, with close to 7,000 members and more than 70,000 tonnes of paddy rice.

These developments echo the promising growth and potential of the Cambodian agriculture sector. With further dedication and collaborative efforts, Cambodia stands poised to strengthen its position as a significant player in global agriculture, officials said.