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Officials told to regulate import of agricultural chemicals

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
Chemicals were to blame for the Kratie deaths. Supplied

Following a meeting with ministry officials, Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon has urged his subordinates to strengthen law enforcement and be on a lookout for unregulated fertiliser and pesticides being imported and circulated on the market.

Mr Sakhon said on Tuesday that in recent years the demand for fertilisers and pesticides has increased due to a boom in crops such as cassava, rubber, rice, corn, beans and cashews.

He said that in response to the increase in production, ministry officials have been working to develop new regulations to manage and control pesticides and the fertiliser business, while at the same time educating the public on the risks and benefits of utilising pesticides and fertiliser.

Mr Sakhon said that his ministry is still facing challenges in the implementation of safety standards.

“First, the import of illegal agricultural pesticide and fertiliser must be stopped so they are not circulated on the market,” he said, referring to products sold without quality assurance or labels. “Second, some fertilisers are well counterfeited with packaging and even an expiry date, while the training on the use, storage, safe-handling and awareness are still limited.”

To address the issue, Mr Sakhon ordered his officials to solve these challenges by applying existing regulating mechanisms and strengthening laws regulating the management of pesticides and fertilisers.

“We have to instruct farmers on what to know and how to save and use organic fertilisers in order to reduce production costs,” he said. “They need to maintain the quality of soil and water and safe-handling of agricultural products, especially in order to reduce the decline of productive agricultural land.”

Theng Savoen, general-secretary of the Coalition of Cambodia Farmers Community, said that he supports strengthening law enforcement over fertilisers and pesticides, but noted that more could be done to make the market safe from unregulated products.

“If we look at agricultural chemicals, it is also a problem because many have been imported without proper packaging or proper instructions on how to use them,” Mr Savoen said. “If we compare the issue to other countries, before they would allow the import of agricultural chemicals, a study is conducted to evaluate the impact on people’s lives. Cambodia is behind on these measures.”

He added that the Agriculture Ministry should scrutinise international border checkpoints in order to prevent the illegal importation of chemicals.

On Tuesday last week, the ministry lifted a ban on the import and distribution of pesticides that was installed temporarily after the government blamed pesticides for contaminated steam water in Kratie province, leading to the death of 13 villagers.

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