The Ministry of Agriculture on Wednesday issued a new statement directing agricultural departments in every province to monitor herbicide-selling businesses and guide farmers on the proper use of the substance.
The statement, signed by Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon, says it is now illegal to sell herbicides in the Kingdom, and instructs officials from provincial agricultural departments to visit agricultural supply stores to ensure the substance is not available for purchase.
The ministry announcement follows the deaths of 13 people in Kratie province’s Chetr Borie district from poisoning, which the government said was caused by toxic run-off derived from herbicides.
A similar statement was issued on Friday in which the ministry said the importation of herbicides is now strictly prohibited.
Stores that have the product in stock are being told to wait for an announcement from the ministry before resuming sales.
“Officials will not be required to confiscate herbicides from wholesalers or retailers that have been legally brought into the country. However, they will be able to appropriate illegally imported products,” the ministry said.
The statement also requires agriculture officers throughout the country to study how to properly use, store and dispose of herbicides, as well as how to manage herbicide run-off, and share their knowledge with the public, particularly farmers, to increase awareness and avoid future incidents.
“Officials have to guide companies and farm owners on these matters, and report back to the ministry,” the statement said.
Phum Ra, the director of the Department of Agricultural Legislation at the Ministry of Agriculture, told Khmer Times yesterday that officials have already started visiting agricultural supply stores in the capital.
“Officials, including myself, have visited and checked on most stores selling pesticides in Phnom Penh, but we found nothing; there is no any sign of illegal activity going on,” Mr Ra said.
Sam Vithou, director of the Cambodian Centre for the Study and Development of Agriculture, said it is a good move that the government is tightening its grip on illegal pesticides, arguing that many such products enter the country without being inspected.
“All pesticides must be checked because they are very poisonous, and if the farmer is not careful, they can affect the health of consumers,” he said.