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Cassava farmers rejoice as going organic pays off

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
A tonne of high-quality organic cassava sells for $92 in Preah Vihear . KT/Mai Vireak

With the country’s first-ever harvest of organic cassava having recently come to an end, farmers say they are happy with the price the crop is fetching, with some earning as much as $2,350 per hectare.

Un Sokun, the leader of an agricultural community in Kampong Thom province, told Khmer Times that cassava farmers in her community are earning more this season after having gone organic.

She said farmers in her community are being paid $94 per tonne of high-quality organic cassava, with lower quality organic cassava selling for $89. Non-organic cassava, by contrast, generally fetches just $77 per tonne, she said.

Yields of the organic crop have also been satisfactory, she said.

“A hectare of land can yield 20 to 25 tonnes, so we can earn up to $2,350 per hectare.”

Her community, who entered a contract farming scheme with the Cambodian Agriculture Cooperative Cooperation (CACC), is composed of 150 farmers that cultivate 44 hectares of land.

“This is our first year growing organic cassava, and we are very happy because its price is higher than conventional cassava.”

Ms Sokun said that, as stipulated in the contract with CACC, farmers in the community must foot the cost of the seeds, which they buy from CACC. However, farmers pay after the harvest, and if yields are disappointing due to unfavourable weather, CACC won’t demand they honour the payment, she said.

“We have not calculated our costs yet, but we pay about $100 in seeds to cultivate one hectare,” Ms Sokun said, adding that some of the output can be kept to cultivate the land in the next season.

Kunthy Kann, CACC managing director, told Khmer Times that his organisation is working with agricultural communities in Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, and Kratie, cooperating with about 450 farmers working on 900 hectares of land.

He said that, on average, a hectare of land in one of these provinces yields 20 to 25 tonnes of organic cassava, with total yield in the three provinces combined equalling 22,500 tonnes.

“We are using seeds from Thailand, which are resilient to adverse weather conditions and diseases and enjoy high yields,” he said. A tonne sells for $80-$85 on overage, he added.

Mr Kann pointed out that CACC pays farmers 20 percent above the market rate.

“Our fresh organic cassava is sent to Vietnam for processing but soon we will be able to process in Cambodia as a new plant is opening in Oddar Meanchey,” he said.

Mr Kann said they have plans to expand organic cassava plantations and are now studying soil quality in new land.

Poeung Tryda, director of Preah Vihear’s agriculture department, said eight agricultural communities in the province have entered contract farming agreements with CACC.

More than 880 hectares of land are now being used to grow organic cassava, yielding about 10,748 tonnes, he said.

“Contract farming is good for our farmers. They get paid a consistent price, higher than what middlemen offer. They can bring more money into their communities,” Mr Tryda said.

He said in Preah Vihear high-quality cassava sells for about $92 per tonne, while lower quality fetches $88.

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