Prime Minister Hun Sen announced plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to buy agricultural products from farmers to prevent traders from artificially lowering prices – if the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is re-elected

At a press conference to present the outcomes of the CPP congress on January 29, spokesman Sok Eysan said relevant state institutions have been advised to prepare to implement key principles related to the agriculture sector in the seventh mandate.

Eysan said Cambodia has faced some issues relating to the sector and that farmers should consider forming associations to negotiate prices.

“The National Assembly has laid out a policy to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase agricultural products at a fair price. We encourage local food producers to form associations so they can negotiate with wholesalers from a position of strength,” he continued.

Yang Saing Koma, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the “5+1” key political platform mentioned by CPP president Hun Sen was an excellent policy base that focuses on social issues.

“It includes more support for people working in the informal economy and provides vocational training to youth. It also enhances the agriculture sector by providing experts to all communes and funding to solve pricing problems in agricultural markets,” he said.

“I understand that the congress achieved more than what many people expected, especially with regard to agricultural policy. Placing volunteer agricultural experts in every commune, supporting farmers’ associations – giving them increased power to negotiate prices – and the freeing of reserve capital to purchase agricultural products will contribute to boosting farmers’ incomes, food security and overall national economic development,” he added.

Uon Silot, president of the Cashew nut Association of Cambodia (CAC), offered strong support for the new policies, as traders often appeared to manipulate market prices around harvest time.

“Buying the farmers’ products is the best way to help them,” he said.

“If we look at our neighbouring countries, especially Vietnam, during the cashew nut or rice harvest, the government releases a budget which subsidises traders and wholesalers, allowing them to pay more for products. If we could do the same here, that would be great,” he said.

He added that in Vietnam, interest rates for the agricultural sector were as low at 1.5 per cent, which meant traders and businesses could not lower prices at will, knowing farmers had debts to meet and would be forced to accept lower offers.

Van Rithy, head of export at agri-machinery firm Angkor Green – whose Angkor Harvest subsidiary buys Keo Romeat Mangos from farmers – said the proposed policy of releasing capital to buy agricultural products was fantastic news for farmers.

Rithy said the problem of falling prices was due to a lack of available capital during the harvest season.

“Price reductions in mangos led to several farmers abandoning their crops and returning to rice cultivation,” he added.

“This policy would increase food production for a long time to come. Almost all buyers face a lack of capital during the harvest season, as so many farmers’ crops ripen at the same time. We hope government financing would rectify this problem,” he concluded.