Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Organic rice production up

Organic rice production up

Organic rice production up

Aproject encouraging farmers to grow organic rice in Kampot and Kampong Thom provinces

has been so successful that next year's harvest is expected to reach export markets.

The Rural Development Project, funded by the German Development Agency (GTZ), has

been promoting the idea of chemical-free rice cultivation to growers since 2003.

From 280 farmers involved in the project in 2003, participation has expanded to include

430 farming families across the two provinces.

Andrew McNaughton, managing director of Cambodia Biologicals Co Ltd, said his company

has collaborated with GTZ and other NGO projects involved in the production of organic

rice by providing processing and market services to communities.

"We are currently selling [chemical-free and organic rice] on the local market,

but we are working very hard on the export market," McNaughton said. "We

have already given samples to buyers in Europe and America and we are negotiating

for sale."

While international demand exists, Cambodia has a limited quantity of organic rice

to satisfy export markets and buyers want to purchase in bulk, McNaughton said.

Without the expense of chemicals, farmers have reduced the costs of rice production,

and are being rewarded with similar yields and higher market prices for their organic

rice.

"Farmers don't need to spend money on chemical or artificial fertilizers and

pesticides anymore," said Keo Chandary, a GTZ program assistant responsible

for Chhouk and Chhumkiri districts in Kampot province.

She said farmers use methods such as manure and plant waste to naturally maintain

soil fertility.

"Now farmers no longer suffer toxic substances, and organic rice farming also

helps to protect the environment and promote the return of beneficial insects that

kill pests," Chandary said.

It takes at least three years of natural farming methods to gain certification that

fields once sprayed with pesticides and fertilizers can be officially categorized

as organic. Until then, rice can be labeled as "chemical-free."

At Lucky Supermarket in Phnom Penh, a kilogram of certified organic rice sells for

$1.20, and chemical-free rice retails at $0.90 per kilogram. Regular rice costs between

$0.6 to $0.8 per kilogram.

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