The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is forging ahead with plans to dispatch 1,600 agricultural officers to all villages and communes across the country, if the ruling party-led government is re-elected for the next five-year term.

Ministry spokeswoman Im Rachna said this initiative, slated to run from 2023 to 2028, aims to serve 1.6 million farming households, equivalent to 7.5 million individuals.

Rachna detailed the ministry’s ambitious plan in a press conference on July 11.

“This project was approved by the General Assembly of the Cambodian People’s Party. The new government would inject an additional $100 million to fund and support the project,” she said.

The spokeswoman mentioned that the ministry had previously launched pilot projects with agricultural officers deployed to Cheung Prey district in Kampong Cham province.

The 1,600 officers to be assigned to communes nationwide would provide technical support on both agricultural and financial management techniques. They would guide farmers on optimal water use for different crop types.

A significant part of the ministry’s mission is to ensure farmers’ crops find a market.

“All commune agriculture officers must help ensure that the crops that farmers grow find a market. This means instructing farmers to understand the market to produce according to demand and avoid over-production,” she said.

Rachna said the ministry anticipates this policy would effectively meet farmers’ needs, especially regarding technical and financial guidance and climate change adaptation.

Van Rithy, executive director of agro-machinery firm Angkor Green Investment and Development, supported the initiative.

“Having agricultural experts nearby when farmers are farming will help avoid surplus production and improper technique use. Market problems are a common issue during harvest seasons, as we’ve experienced with mangoes. This has led many farmers to abandon this crop this year,” he said.

“We hope that the agricultural officers the ministry plans to deploy would help solve the challenges faced by farmers in the past. This could push Cambodia’s agricultural sector to the forefront as an agricultural country,” he added.

Kann Kunthy, president of the Cambodian Agricultural Cooperative Corporation (CACC), agreed. He said the deployment of officers would help reduce the company’s staff costs and enable the ministry to work directly with farmers.

“If there are agricultural officers in every commune, it’s good. The ministry can monitor the implementation of what it has taught farmers. On the other hand, our private sector has invested a lot in officials when visiting each commune, so we can reduce our costs,” he said.

The ministry’s working group of commune-level agriculture officers previously visited all 10 communes and 74 village in Kampong Cham province’s Cheung Prey district.

They directly met with farmers in every village, established agricultural communities in every commune, and linked farmers with markets, ultimately aiding them in securing more capital.