According to a report compiled by three NGOs, 92.2 per cent of farmers participating in their survey have had lower incomes due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Although farmers have been able to grow rice and other crops and raise animals to earn their living in the same manner as before, problems with lower market prices, diminished exports and other factors have made it difficult for them to earn a living during the pandemic.
The 60-page “Impact of Covid-19 on Small Scale Farmers and Food Producers in Cambodia” report was released on December 27 by the Social Action for Community and Development (SACD), Cambodian Grassroots Cross-Sector Network/People’s Action for Development (CGCN/PAD) and Focus on the Global South (FOCUS).
The research team interviewed 104 farmers and small-scale food producers to produce the report, including members representing or coordinating with local communities, natural resource conservation groups and groups of farmers and fishermen, among others.
The respondents were from Phnom Penh and the provinces of Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Pailin, Pursat, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Siem Reap, Preah Vihear, Kampong Speu, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Takeo, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot, Koh Kong and Kandal.
According to the report, small-scale farmers’ agricultural production has declined due to the effects of climate change, such as droughts and floods. The prices of agricultural products and livestock for farmers continued to experience a drop, while the prices at the markets for those products increased. Paddy prices, it noted, were stable in some areas but declined sharply in others.
According to the report, the drop in paddy prices was due to a lack of demand with fewer rice buyers or brokers than there were previously. Some farmers have had to decide whether to speed up the harvest or modify the timing of their harvests according to traders’ instructions to avoid drastically lowered prices or being left holding rice without any buyers.
To help farmers, the report calls on the government to continue providing free and quality Covid-19 care and treatment services to small-scale farmers and all citizens, and to facilitate loan deferrals and loan forgiveness with banks and microfinance institutions as steps towards helping restore farmers’ livelihoods.
The report also called on the government to provide subsidies and technical assistance programmes for farmers and small-scale food producers as well as to provide food and shelter support and social protections for them.
Tan Phannara, spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told The Post on December 27 that during the Covid-19 outbreak, Cambodia’s farmers went unaffected because the ministry was able to flexibly adjust to meet their needs during the pandemic.