LAND used to grow tobacco has doubled in one province this year, despite the government introducing measures to discourage tobacco smoking.
Oem Voeun, deputy chief of administration from the Kampong Cham agricultural department, said tobacco farming has sharply increased and is the livelihood for thousands of families in some districts.
Land used for tobacco farming has more than doubled in the province to 5,000 hectares, according to statistics for 2009-2010, up from 1,670 hectares on the 2008-2009 comparison.
He said people living in the districts along the Mekong River were more likely to depend on tobacco farming for income as access to water ensured good crops.
“Moreover, some firms have encouraged them to plant [tobacco],” he said, but did not elaborate what the incentives were.
Som Ra, director of agricultural office in Kroch Chhmar district, said farmers flocked to plant tobacco in 2010 because the tobacco price had increased to more than US$3 per kilogramme in 2009. However, he estimated the popularity could decrease because the price had dropped to $1.7 per kilogramme this year.
“I think that some people will move to growing corn because the price went down,” he said.
He said mainly companies from Europe, China, and Vietnam ordered and processed the tobacco grown in Kampong Cham.
Pang Phal, a 45-year-old tobacco planter in Tboung Khmom district said that he planted about 20,000 bunches on half a hectare of land, spending more than 1 million riel on fertilizer and ploughing. He could generate 3 million riel in revenue if the price remained as high as last year, but was concerned it would not.
“Last year, dry tobacco cost over 10,000 riel per kilogramme but it decreased to around 5,000 riel this year,” he said.
The government said in September it may soon ban tobacco advertising. It passed a sub-decree in July requiring health warning labels on cigarette packets.