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Rising fertiliser, fuel prices slow rice farming

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A man works at a warehouse for fertiliser and pesticides used in agriculture. FN

Rising fertiliser, fuel prices slow rice farming

Although the monsoon season this year started with ample rainfall for growing rice, some farmers are saying they are not yet able to begin planting due to the high price of fertiliser and pesticides. They are worried that if they don’t begin growing their crops soon, this year’s rainy season may be a total loss for them.

Ly Yoeun is a farmer and the chief of Trapaing Brei commune’s Kok Romeas village in Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district. He told The Post on May 4 that the prices of fertiliser and pesticides – as well as fuel – are extremely high while at the same time the price of rice remains very low.

He said that subsistence farmers who only grow rice for their families to eat are not worried about this issue, but he farms one field of 3.5ha and rents another 5ha from a neighbour to grow additional rice to sell.

Yoeun said he had to think carefully before investing in his rice business this year because of the danger of losing money if he picked the wrong rice seeds or the prices of fertiliser, pesticides, fuel for transportation or anything else were to rise much further.

“Over the last two years, I’ve lost several thousand dollars on my investments in rice farming due to the market lockdowns, climate issues and the increasing price of fertiliser and pesticide,” he said.

He said the rainfall earlier this year had made his rice fields full of lush green grass – which unfortunately is exactly what he does not need.

“To kill the grass on the field so we can plant rice, we need to spray an herbicide before we start farming. But for now, it doesn’t make sense to do it until enough water is available. Where there is water available we need to plow our fields and sow our rice,” he said, adding that he needed more time to consider whether to plant this season or scrap his plans to avoid further losses.

He said he would have to spend around 1.3 to 1.6 million riel to grow rice for each hectare he had under cultivation, but the price of fertilizer had increased from 180,000 riel to 240,000 riel for a 50 kg sack.

Moul Nen, another farmer and the president of the farming community in Samaki village of Trapaing Brei commune, finds herself in a similar situation. She said another type of fertilizer commonly used had increased from 100,000 riel to 130,000 riel and the price for herbicides to get rid of the grass had doubled.

“The prices of fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides have all increased over the last two years, causing heavy losses to farmers here. But we don’t have any other choices. If we don’t farm, we won’t have enough food for our families,” she said.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said that Cambodia imported 103,005 tonnes of herbicides and 1,406,775 tones of fertilizer for agriculture in 2020.

There is no complete data set for the imports for last year yet, but in the first five months of 2021 a total of 47,409 tonnes of herbicides or pesticides and 858,632 tonnes of fertilizers were imported.

Sot Sisokheang, director of the Oddar Meanchey provincial agriculture department, said that there are more than 90,000 ha of rice fields in the province, but how much of the field is actually used depends on the farmers.

So far, he observed, most farmers in the province had not yet started their work.

Nheun Kuon, director of the Oddar Meanchey provincial department of water resources and meteorology, said that delaying the start of agricultural activities when water is already available will make farmers lose out.

He said that some reservoirs are full and ready to have their water released for irrigation of rice fields, especially during the coming “short dry season” from July to August.

“I am concerned that if they delay any further, it will affect their yields because when there is more rain, farmers may not be able to move their machinery onto the rice fields and this would cause them to miss this rainy season’s cultivation entirely,” he said.

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