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Productivity focus needed for farming: World Bank

Productivity focus needed for farming: World Bank

Despite increased yields and the rising use of farming machinery in Cambodia’s agriculture sector, growth in the industry for 2013-14 was only between 1 and 2 per cent, with greater emphasis needed on the quality of seeds and fertilisers, as well as encouraging greater vegetable production, according to a World Bank report.

The Cambodian Agriculture in Transition: Opportunities and Risks report released on Wednesday said that while the agricultural sector had steady growth between 2004 and 2012, driven by a spurt in rice production, a slowdown in the expansion of farmland means that producers will need to focus on getting higher yields from their input.

“In the situation with limited potential for farmland expansion, this puts emphasis on productivity, profitability, and competitiveness to underpin future growth,” the report reads.

While paddy rice production leads the way, maize, cassava, sugarcane and vegetables showed significant increases, but growth has come from a low base.

Vegetable production, the report says, while low in production numbers has been the “most profitable crops to produce in Cambodia”.

Yang Saing Koma, president of agriculture organisation CEDAC, said that progress made in encouraging vegetable farming has been very slow and this lack of take up has led to the increased import of vegetables over the years.

“We need a national program to support vegetable production and I consider it important to diversify it [agricultural production],” Koma said.

The World Bank report states that yields increased by 4 per cent between 2004 and 2012 and was largely driven by increased use of machinery, expanded irrigation and quality fertilisers.

Koma said it was the private sector that was boosting the use of fertilisers and little had been done by government to encourage the quality of seeds and access to irrigation facilities.

“I can’t say much has been done to improve seeds. In terms of fertilisers, the private sector is importing and promoting its use,” Koma said.

“So I think our government and public sector has done very little in this part.”

The report also says that despite a drop in the poverty rate – around 18 per cent in 2012 according to World Bank figures – the rate could easily double to 40 per cent if those people just above the poverty line were to lose just $0.70, or 1,200 riel, in income a day.

“That is a possibility. Agriculture is never good for these poor people in rural areas given low productivity, bad weather and lack of technology,” said Srey Chanthy, an independent economic analyst.

Chanthy added that people on the cusp of the poverty line are largely dependent on remittances and urban jobs to make a living.

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