A child standing behind a basket of chemical-free eggplants produced by farmers in Svay Rieng province. Photograph: Mao Mithona/Phnom Penh Post
In May, the first group of vegetable producers in Cambodia was certified on the basis of COrAA’s “Standards for Chemical-free Crop Production”.
The 72 farmers, belonging to the Women Chemical-free vegetable-producing group of the Vegetable Supply Co-operative in Svay Rieng, have been producing healthy vegetables for several years. But the certification gives them a boost in marketing as they now sell also more vegetables in Phnom Penh.
During recent years the farmers have been supported by the Japanese NGO International Volunteers of Yamagata (IVY) and the Provincial Department of Agriculture in Svay Rieng.
For many vegetable growers, the requirements for chemical-free stand-ard are easier to follow than those of common organic standards. The aim is to encourage vegetable producers to convert to organic production and give consumers an alternative to conventional produce.
Organic standards require a transition of at least two years, but chemical-free standards essentially demand that the producer does not apply synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. The use of commercially available organic fertilisers is possible.
COrAA had observed that consumers are usually left in the dark with regard to the source and the safety of vegetables, especially because initial studies on pesticide residues in market vegetables indicate some kind of vegetables may pose a risk to the health of consumers as many farmers apply pesticides without adequate knowledge.
For many years the production of organic and chemical-free produce was chiefly in the hands of small-scale producers, commonly cultivating just a few hundred square metres. In view of the increasing demand, several commercial farms are currently establishing the cultivation of organic vegetables on a larger scale. Two of these farms are now certified as producers of chemical-free vegetables.