National Assembly members from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party released the party’s latest agriculture policy report yesterday to engage voters on contemporary rural issues ahead of the commune and national elections in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
The SRP-Agriculture Policy was released after the party conducted extensive research last year, which included a series of public hearings across 16 provinces to determine the main issues facing farmers, party officials said.
During a press conference at the SRP’s headquarters in Phnom Penh yesterday, SRP lawmaker Son Chhay accused the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s of failing to regulate the agriculture industry and allowing production costs to soar in areas such as seedlings, ploughs, fuel, fertiliser, insecticide, labour and transportation.
“Some farmers noted that the fertiliser they had bought was three times more expensive than neighbouring countries and was not good quality,” Son Chhay said.
He added that if the SRP were in control of the government, they would commit to the auditing of all land concessions given to private companies to ensure that they abide by Cambodian law and are using the land strictly for agricultural purposes.
“If not, the land should be confiscated and returned to the state, where it can then be distributed to villagers and landless farmers,” he said.
Last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced plans to boost the Kingdom’s milled rice exports to 1 million tonnes annually by 2015, up from the current level of roughly 40,000 tonnes.
Son Chhay said that the SRP would also put an end to the policy of handing out state land to private companies through economic land concessions, but said that foreign companies would be encouraged to invest in Cambodia’s agricultural industry independently in order to boost local markets and increase employment.
He added that in total about 2.5 million hectors of land concessions had been given to roughly 50 foreign companies, but only half of that land had been used for agricultural production, while the remaining land, about one million hectares, was used for logging by private companies.
“SRP lawmakers call on the government to seize the unused land of the private companies and distribute it to the farmers to increase the production of crops,” Son Chhay said.
The six-page policy report highlighted issues of particular concern expressed by farmers such as land disputes, high production costs, lack of technical assistance, decreased market access and information, lack of irrigation and the high cost of credit.
Cheam Yeap, senior lawmaker from the ruling CPP, said yesterday that the party was not concerned by the report.
“I think that the CPP is not concerned about the competition from the opposition party because the [CPP] has enough human resources and experience in the agricultural sector and our agricultural policy is the standard of the region and the world, and the growth in this industry has so far been recognised by the international community,” he said.