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Kingdom becoming more self-reliant on vegetables

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
Cambodian farmers. The government wants to be more self-sufficient in agricultural produce to cut back on imports. Supplied

A senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture has called on more investment in the horticulture and subsidiary crops sector because the demand for vegetables in the country has increased nearly 1,000 tonnes per day.

Kean Sophea, director of the department of horticulture and subsidiary crops at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told Khmer Times that Cambodia now could produce around 600 tonnes of vegetables daily to supply the market, but demand is about 1,000 tonnes, which means importing 400 tonnes from foreign countries.

“Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the local market demanded more than 1,000 tonnes per day. However, he said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand dropped because there iwere no tourists and a lot of restaurants and hotels have been closed,” he said.

“We imported around 400 tonnes from Vietnam, Thailand and China,” Sophea added.

When asked when Cambodia could supply enough of its own vegetables locally Sophea said that it is depends on investment.

“So far, there are no any commercial farms that can grow enough vegetables to supply the market. Some farmers have only four to five hectares, but the majority of vegetable producers are small-scale farmers with cultivated land of less than 1,000 square metres,” he added.

Sophea added that a main issue faced by vegetable growers was a shortage of water, especially in April and May. Moreover, market access is also an issue because the farmers deal with brokers, plus there can be unstable supply and weak production.

“We cannot interfere with brokers in the market until our production is strong and stable to supply the market for a whole year. We have to strengthen our producers

or combine as community producers to have a strong voice and work as wholesalers to sell our vegetables,” he said.

Mey Kalyan, a project leader at Cambodia Horticulture Investment Platform (CHIP), a senior adviser at the Supreme National Economic Council and the chairman of the board of trustees at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, a group created for the promotion of fruit and vegetables in the Kingdom said it’s vital to consider the vegetable issue as one package.

“The issue is import substitution. What should we do? Everything must be linked to the market and the market must improve over time. We have to think about the market chain,” he said.

“We have to improve the production system to follow standards, combine the vegetable producers into communities or clusters, link them to the market and a given price, certify the products and set up a work plan to supply the marke,” Kalyan added.

This work has to involve relevant stakeholders including the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Economy and Finance, private investors, and farmers. We should focus on chemical-free and organic vegetables rather than vegetables grown with additives.”

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