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Tractor imports decrease, but experts not concerned

Tractor imports decrease, but experts not concerned

130207 07
An employee wipes dust off a tractor at a dealership in Phnom Penh yesterday. Imports of tractors fell by 24 per cent last year. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

Tractor imports fell by 24 per cent last year, a significant decrease from 44,993 units in 2011 to 36,301 units, according to recent statistics from the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Although the cultivation of some  crops in the Kingdom has increased, analysts said yesterday the decrease in tractor imports would not radically affect the country’s agricultural productivity.

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodia Economic Association, told the Post that tractors were durable goods that could be used for at least five years, which meant the import numbers did not fluctuate to the same degree as soft goods and did not necessarily increase with rising output.  

“I don’t think it affects the country’s agricultural productivity, because the previous year’s imports are serving the demand,” he said. “If there is demand, suppliers will come to balance the market.”  

Meas Sotheary, director of the statistics department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said Cambodia had imported enough tractors during the past few years to support the area currently under cultivation in the Kingdom.

The total cultivated area for paddy fields was 2.9 million hectares last year, she said, a slight rise from 2.8 million hectares in 2011.

The total cultivated area for corn was 215,000 hectares, and cassava plantations covered 337,000 hectares in 2012.

“We have not seen any noticeable change regarding the cultivated area. There was just a slight increase of land cultivation for some major crops such as paddy and corn,” Sotheary said.

Srey Chanthy, an independent agricultural analyst, said tractor demand largely coincides with the amount of land farmers of cassava, rice and corn cultivated, as these were often grown on large fields where tractors were widely used.

“It [the demand] is saturated in this short-term period. That is why the supply did not significantly increase,” he said. “It will increase again in the long run.”

Huot Sovann, executive director of the Mekong Agriculture Tractor Company, said demand for tractors was cyclical. A farm might launch a large-scale project that would last several years, he said.

But Sovann said his company had increased its tractor imports over the past few years.

The Post reported on Monday that the Mekong Agriculture Tractor Company would soon build its first tractor assembly plant, a joint venture with the Belarus-based Minsk Tractor Works, one of the world’s largest tractor producers.

But Te Thai Song, a tractor dealer in Battambang province, said most of his sales were of second-hand tractors, and new models were less popular.

“I have five new tractors in the shop, and they’re still here,” Song said.

Chanthy said crops such as soy beans and peanuts were generally planted on smaller, family-run farms, where traditional methods such as ploughing predominate.

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