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Farmers facing a fertiliser glut

Farmers facing a fertiliser glut

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An baffling array of chemical and supposedly better natural fertilisers are for sale in markets across the Kingdom. But composting works as well and is free, officials say

HENG CHIVOAN

An employee of the new organic fertiliser company BioOne unloading the company’s products in Phnom Penh.

THE unregulated import of chemical fertilisers and agricultural materials to Cambodia has left many farmers trapped in a market saturated by expensive and sometimes unreliable products.

Yet business is still booming: Synara Ung, president of the newest entrant to the market, the natural fertiliser company Bio-One Inc, said in May alone the company imported 16 tonnes of organic fertiliser and sold it to 160 Farmer Associations in Cambodia.

According to Synara Ung, most Cambodian farmers are aware that chemical fertilisers can cause damage to their crops, but are still investing thousands of dollars in the pursuit of good harvests.

"Farmers today pay about US$1,000 a year for chemical fertilisers and herbicide," he said, adding that because profits were the key goal, organic fertilisers - allegedly costing less than chemicals and having fewer adverse effects - are a better business model.

Kim Sophon, 45, chief of the Kampong Rou district Farmers' Association in Svay Rieng province, said that he and other villagers have used organic fertilisers for three months now and are hoping to see some improvements in yield.

He said he previously spent about $500 a year on chemical fertiliser and about $250 a year on herbicide. He said by selling his rice crops for about $1,000 a year he could make a $250 profit, but was hoping to double it this year by using an organic fertiliser.

"I think my paddy rice is healthier and growing much faster," Kim Sophon said.

Go really organic

But Hean Vanhan, deputy director of the Department of Agronomy and Agricultural Land Improvement, said that farmers should make their own composts by collecting grass cuttings and leaves and combining them with manure and household waste.

"One family of farmers could reduce their expenditure by about $750 a year if they produced compost themselves," Hean Vanhan estimated.

He said that many of the agricultural companies imported fertilisers from America, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and China, few of which were suited to Cambodia's unique environment and damaged crops.

"We are not only worried about chemical fertilisers imported from other countries," he said.

"Organic fertilisers from overseas are also not suited to Cambodia's environment and can have negative effects on its biodiversity," he added.

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