Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina outlined the government’s priorities to help farmers and limit risks to agricultural production.
He said that after inspecting the situation in several different provinces, he has determined that the biggest potential for expansion of production is helping farmers grow crops in every season, year round.
Tina said that the solution to growing crops in every season in Cambodia is to increase the use of net houses among farmers. Net houses are a relatively cheap and easy to use method for protecting crops from the sun and insects that could allow farmers to plant and harvest multiple times per year.
“The government also has a scheme to ensure prices of certain commodities through advance purchase commitments with farmers,” Tina told journalists at a dialogue on the Cambodian agricultural sector on December 6.
“If the main priority of the farmer is gaining revenue, that can be accomplished, but we need to act in an informed way. To that end, we need to collect clear, accurate information from farmers, which requires their cooperation.
“We will methodically expand the scope of our work from one community to another,” he said.
Tina acknowledged that he did not have concrete, one-size-fits-all solutions beyond the government’s policies to ensure that stakeholders benefit equitably without bias towards any particular group.
As an example of the moral hazard involved with government policy too heavily favouring one side or another with market manipulations, Tina raised the question of pork pricing.
Farmers would like pork prices to be higher, so they earn more. However, people who eat pork, who outnumber the farmers considerably, would likely prefer the opposite.
“I don’t hear anyone who eats pork offering their thanks for its lower cost even though there are many who benefit, but I do hear a lot of complaints about it from the much smaller group consisting of farmers with pigs,” he said.
“If demand is lower than production, that means there aren’t enough buyers. When nobody is buying, the price drops lower,” he explained.
He noted that reforms in the livestock sector need to be tackled over a longer term, adding that generally, raising animals is a difficult business to generate revenues because market conditions have changed significantly.
He encouraged farmers to only engage in agricultural activities that bring in revenue and are profitable by adapting instead of repeating the same mistakes year to year.
“We need to find methods to generate revenue, and we’re not going to be able to do that without making some changes ourselves. If we keep doing the same things even though it’s hard work without any benefit to it, we can expect that we will achieve that same result each time.
“Many people want change, but they want other people to change instead of focusing on changing themselves,” Tina said.