Sowing seeds for growth

Sok Chan / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
A farmer ploughs his field on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The government is to set a long-term plan for agriculture to make it more competitive, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

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The Agricultural Master Plan 2030 – a strategic framework for agricultural sector development – aims to provide high-quality services with a sound scientific, technological and legislative base.

Srey Vuthy, director of the department of planning and statistics at the Ministry of Agriculture, said the plan was to enhance inclusive agricultural growth by increasing productivity, diversification, competitiveness and agricultural commercialisation.

It also promotes sustainable agriculture land use, forestry and fisheries resources management and development.

“The overall policy goal is to increase agricultural growth by around five percent per annum and expand agricultural exports with high quality and safety through enhancing agricultural productivity, value adding and enabling competition, taking into account the sustainable use of land and ensuring sustainable and forestry resource management,” Mr Vuthy said.

Speaking at a consultation workshop on “The new path of Cambodia’s agriculture growth” yesterday at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Vongsey Vissoth, secretary of state of economy and finance, told more than 100 participants it was time to think about the long-term strategic framework in agriculture, avoiding short-term measures which solve current issues but not the root problem.

“Currently, the agriculture sector is facing complicated issues and these have become hot issues in the whole country from production to the market,” Mr Vissoth said.

“The big issue is coming from the big transformation of the structure of the economy as a whole and in agriculture as a part with the effort of government,” he said.

But he said Cambodia lacked management and preparation to support of the transformation.

“The share of the agriculture sector in the country’s GDP was more than 40 percent in 1990,” Mr. Vissoth said.

“It is 29 percent this year but the volume and value is big, so we have to think what we are going to do in the next five or ten years.

“We have to re-evaluate which way to go, what the prioritised products are and what we do to support the complicated change.”

Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon told yesterday’s forum that it was an opportunity to check, evaluate and seek deep understanding on the issue of the draft policy on the agriculture development for the medium and long term to achieve agricultural production chain goals as well as maintaining natural resources sustainability.

“Agricultural produces have increased remarkably which means there is a need to solve issues including market access,” Mr Sakhon said.

“Thus, in order to modernise and boost production, diversification, and commercialisation in agriculture to help solve issues facing farmers, especially smallholder farmers, we will continue taking measures for effective and efficient renovation of infrastructure in the production chain and competition in the market,” Mr Sakhon said.

Phou Puy, CEO of the Cambodia Rice Bank, suggested that government and stakeholders solve urgent issues first without waiting for the master plan.

He suggested having a working group to solve current issues in agriculture.

“We want an exact community market for farmers to bring their products to purchasers or rice millers in one place,” Mr Puy said.

“Farmers want exact purchasers and exact prices. Famers want more convenient roads for transporting agriculture products and for the government to negotiate with Thailand to allow easy access for Cambodian agriculture products.”

Mr Vissoth said Cambodia should have a medium and long-term master plan to keep Cambodia agriculture sector sustainable and avoid problems.

He said the government would also think about a short-term plan to help farmers and the agriculture sector.

Chan Sophal, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said there were two issues in agriculture, output and input.

He said that for output, the government should have proper irrigation systems and lower logistic costs from the rice field to the market.

“For input in agriculture, there are also issues including regulation of imported fertiliser and pesticide which lack effectiveness and which cost a lot for the private sector.

The quality of checking imported agriculture pesticide was not clear, so the government must strengthen regulations,” Mr Sophal said.

Economy and finance secretary of state Vongsey Vissoth said agriculture was the backbone of the economy.

One part was pushing growth and reducing poverty, and the other part was maintaining the environment by managing water and fertilisers.

“We have to boost productivity, diversification and commercialisation, human resources training to build capacity and market share while agro-business or agro-processing are key to solving issues,” Mr. Vissoth said.

Mr Vissoth identified the three priority areas next year would be production, processing and market share.

He said that government would consider subsidising seedlings for farmers, checking the regulation on the quality and standard of fertiliser, animal feeds, pesticide imports, checking fertiliser, animal and pesticide imports and animal house slaughter, reviewing import tax, checking the cost of transport and distribution, and reviewing the electricity tariff.

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