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Veggie farming to trim Kingdom’s import bill

A woman cleans vegetables at a farm in Kandal's Muk Kampoul district.
A woman cleans vegetables at a farm in Kandal's Muk Kampoul district. Heng Chivoan

Veggie farming to trim Kingdom’s import bill

Government officials, economists and businesses discussed the implementation of a draft program to invigorate vegetable farming in the Kingdom and cut imports from neighbouring countries in half by 2018.

The workshop, organised by the Center for Policy Studies and Agriculture Ministry last week, revolved around the Cambodian government’s $20 million infusion into the agriculture sector, with a focus on vegetable farming, rice seed production and crop diversification.

Mey Kalyan, senior adviser for the Supreme National Economic Council, said currently the Kingdom was importing close to 400 tonnes of vegetables a day, at a cost of $200 million a year.

Despite, Vietnam’s geographical advantages for vegetable farming, which accounts for a bulk of these imports, the government was looking to at least meet the demands of the market by 2018, he added.

“Vietnam can produce some things better than we can because of its plateaus and the climate is better,” Kalyan said. “But, we have to figure out what we can do to reduce imports.”

The draft program, entitled the Boosting Food Production Project, aims to increase local production to 200 tonnes a day, or 70,000 tonnes a year, while at the same time cutting imports by half to 200 tonnes a day by 2018.

Kalyan added that a central market place will be created to filter in all the vegetables grown in the country, after which they would be subjected to health standards requirements before being sold to the consumer.

“Unless farmers are linked to a market, they will not know what to produce,” Kalyan said.

While linking farmers to a market was one step in the process, he added, linking them to each other and getting vegetable farmers to work as a community would help increase their sales prospects.

Another aspect of the program is to improve the quality of seeds by getting millers and farmers to work together on using high quality jasmine and fragrant rice seeds.

“There is [currently] no linkage of the whole value chain. That is why I emphasise that rice millers’ link with rice farmers and for them to work with the rice seed,” Kalyan said.

Chan Sophal, director of the Center for Policy Studies, said that a major challenge in improving the quality of rice was obtaining adequate technology that will improve cultivation practices.

However, he emphasised that it is even more important to increase vegetable production because, while rice is produced in surplus, vegetable production has not met demand.

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