The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are discussing low-interest rate loans for farmers to fund the use of net houses for growing vegetables as well as improved irrigation technology.

During his meeting with ADB country director Jyotsana Varma on February 13, minister Dith Tina highlighted the importance of using digital technology to link producers to buyers, reduce the role of brokers and lower production chain costs to increase profits.

“The efficient and economical use of water systems that use solar power for pumping water during the day and use electricity at night that is low price can reduce farmers’ expenditures. Farmers who grow other crops need to have other mechanisms to improve food security and safety and economic sustainability by obtaining low-interest loans for agricultural production,” Tina said in a social media post after the meeting.

He also mentioned the past cooperation between ADB and the ministry under the former’s fund and the five ongoing investment projects and five “pipeline” projects. Recently completed projects include four investment projects and 10 technical assistance projects.

The minister said low-interest loans would help provide net houses and more efficient and economical use of water systems so that farmers will get more profits.

Laing Haing Leng, a farmer who grows vegetables in net houses in Kandal province’s Khsach Kandal district, said that it provided better yields.

Haing Leng started growing vegetables in net houses from the middle of 2022. He said it provided better quality vegetables and yields than growing them outdoors as he could control the amount of sun the vegetables got and it stopped insects and animals from destroying the crops.

“I have observed that growing vegetables in a net house yields more than growing in the field. Besides, in combination with organic fertilisers that I produce myself, it made my vegetables grow well with a good output. Now I’ve got contracts with Tropicam Fruit and Vegetable Co Ltd without ever worrying about the open market,” he said.

Tropicam CEO Hun Lak said net houses provided positive results since the establishment of the safe vegetable production line that follows the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) standards for the past two years.

He said his company has set up a model farm in Kien Svay district’s Banteay Dek commune of Kandal province that is growing vegetables in net houses. The firm can supply the market with about 300-400kg per day from the model farm, while the demand for safe vegetables keeps increasing from day to day.

“Safe vegetables are more expensive than vegetables grown in the field because customers trust the company as we grow by ourselves and buy from farmers who follow our instructions, and it especially helps to have the recognition from the ministry of 100 per cent safe vegetables.

“Farmers who joined Tropicam get positive results and they receive four to five times higher profits and the market demand is growing as well,” he said.

He added that the project to grow vegetables in net houses had received support from development partners and the agriculture ministry, which was encouraging the private sector to increase safe vegetable production to supply the markets and meet consumer demand.

According to the agriculture ministry, safe vegetables can be grown on a large or small scale depending on the

size of land. The cultivation uses smaller amounts of various pesticides, but is done in accordance with the correct technical standards and clear guidelines, and safe vegetable farmers are properly trained by agriculture experts.

Moreover, to be recognised as safe vegetables, farmers must receive GAP certification from the ministry. Currently, there are 28 “safe fruit and vegetable” markets, with eight farming cooperatives as well as 270 farms and businesses supplying and distributing them – all recognised by the agriculture ministry.