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Agriculture minister goes on defensive

Agriculture minister goes on defensive

Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon yesterday defended his ministry amid complaints by farmers of low yields during dry season, rising costs of production and a lack of markets to sell their produce, saying that other ministries and sectors also shared responsibility.

Speaking at a workshop on a draft agricultural land law yesterday, Sakhon said that cooperation from authorities in the water resources, transportation and energy ministries is vital to resolving farmers’ woes, which he said had been relayed to him by NGOs. “Please do not only look at the agriculture minister . . . the ministry should not be blamed alone,” he said. “We have to work together.”

Among the suggestions he raised were the building of more irrigation systems, the lowering of electricity prices and the im-plementation of an effective transport system.

The suggestions were lauded by Theng Savoeun, secretary-general of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community, who added that farmers require governmental support to complete with produce from neighbouring countries. “We only have water during the rainy season,” he said. “The government should [invest] in irrigation systems . . . and provide loans to farmers who need them.”

Conceding that more can be done, Water Resources Ministry spokesman Chan Yutha said that collaboration with partners such as Japan, Korea and China to build more reservoirs and irrigation systems are underway, adding that it may take five to six years and $1 billion to expand its irrigation systems throughout the Kingdom.

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