Agricultural experts are urging Cambodian rice growers to choose seeds that can withstand drought and submersion in deep water in an attempt to make the country’s rice industry more competitive.
Awareness of rice-seed selection was limited among farmers in the Kingdom, despite the importance of the issue, Yang Saing Koma, president of the agricultural association CEDAC, said.
“Being able to select rice seeds is an important part of increasing the quantity of rice outputs and the export of milled rice,” he said.
The Ministry of Agriculture is also aware of the need for a proliferation of information on the subject.
This week, the ministry held a forum to help spread new techniques for rice selection.
Experts have said the choice of rice seeds will have a close connection to Cambodia’s ability to meet its 2015 milled-rice export goal of one million tonnes.
At Monday’s forum, Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun said the ministry was cooperating with the International Rice Research Institute to breed 10 varieties of rice seeds to withstand harsh conditions.
“Research is development. If there is no research, there is no development," Chan Sarun said. "Therefore, it is necessary to research and develop new, sophisticated agricultural techniques proper for the conditions of the country.
“[It’s necessary to] invest in agriculture and Cambodian farmers, especially in the context of ensuring food security and competing for milled-rice markets.”
Cambodian rice yields – about 3.17 tonnes per hectare – were still considerably lower than those of neighbouring rice producers such as Thailand and Vietnam, Chan Sarun noted.
According to ministerial data, Cambodia’s total rice output for 2011 and 2012 was nearly 8.8 million tonnes, exceeding the previous year’s harvest by more than a half a million tonnes.
Uon Saphun, a rice farmer living in the Bati district of Takeo province, said that before this year, she had never scrutinised the type of rice seed that she planted.
She said she had often selected seeds that would not hold up in a harsh environment such as Cambodia.
“Previously, I used only Phka Khnhei rice seeds and Neang Minh rice seeds, and I did not receive a lot of output," Uon Saphun said.
"But this year, I will change to Romdoul seed because my neighbours got more output after trying it,” she said.
Romdoul is a sturdier seed.