Representatives of Cambodia’s agriculture cooperatives yesterday called on the government, financial backers and partners to ensure they have adequate water resources, capital, and market access so they can boost productivity and competitiveness as well as invest in their businesses.
The demand was made at the ‘Eighth National Farmer Forum on the Enhancement of Multi-Stakeholder Engagement to Enable Farmers to Invest in Agriculture,’ held in Phnom Penh.
Yann Srey Yat, a women’s farmer representative and also the president of the Union of Cooperative Agriculture in Battambang, said there are challenges facing farmers that they needed help to overcome.
Ms Srey Yat called for sensible management of water resources.
She pointed to limited knowledge in the community of planning income and expenses, as well as banking and microfinance services, which, she claimed, have excessively high interest rates.
She also accused the government of poorly marketing their products.
Ms Srey Yat also criticised paddy brokers over how they set prices and said supply and quality standards were not always met.
There is still poor cooperation between local authorities, she pointed out, adding that because production costs are high, profits are low.
“We are calling on the many stakeholders to address and solve these issues and challenges so that farmers can invest in the local agriculture sector,” Ms Srey Yat added.
She called on the Network for Development of Food Security and Safety in Cambodia (NDF-C) to deal with these problems, particularly regarding water management and distribution from rivers, streams, community ponds and rainfall which could be used for agriculture.
Ms Srey Yat said she wanted more action to counter the effects of climate change and more help in dealing with regional and global competition, especially regarding protectionist policies, the lack of seedlings to meet market demand, high production costs and a lack of investment in modern agriculture.
Nongovernmental Forum Executive Director Tek Vannara said yesterday’s platform aimed to help farmers share views and discuss challenges with relevant stakeholders to find solutions.
Mr Vannara said engaging with stakeholders on cooperation and updating them on support methods and mechanisms will boost the agribusiness sector.
“The agriculture sector employs about 36.4 percent of the workforce across the country. That’s 3.1 million jobs. However, this sector faced many issues including low productivity, infrastructure support, irregular supplies both in quality and amount, limited market access, changing commodity prices and climate change,” Mr Vannara said.
He said the agricultural-commercialisation sector and sustainability needed boosting, as did production and the value chain. This requires participation from the private sector, producers and microfinance institutions, as well as infrastructure development, law implementation, policy support, and the capacity to increase agricultural production for local markets and exports.
Song Saran, president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), said it had two main missions: to increase exports of milled rice to 1 million tonnes by 2022 and to find ways to raise farmers’ profits sustainably and inclusively.
He said the CRF will help to improve productivity and farming and milling techniques, lower costs of production and improve the export process while upholding the highest ethical standards in all dealings with stakeholders.
“Our strategy is to push for 1 million tonnes of rice exports by 2022, starting from 750,000 tonnes in 2020, increasing the value from $400 million to $600 million per year, and strengthening the Cambodian rice brand Maly Angkor, the premium fragrant rice variety,” Mr Saran said.
“The association will also expand and strengthen the foreign market in the EU, China, Asean and other countries, including Australia, prepare contracts between agriculture cooperatives and rice millers and push farmers to become agri-entrepreneurs.”
He added that the association will build a strong partnership with the government to manage and prepare the irrigation system and seek funding to help the agriculture cooperatives, rice millers and rice exporters.
“We will also help farmers improve their effectiveness on data management, pricing, technology, fair trade, the implementation of the rice blockchain and sustainable rice platforms,” he said.