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Milling that extra mile: Kingdom on track to achieve rice export target

Harrison White / Khmer Times Share:
Prime Minister Hun Sen drives a rice harvester during a visit to farmers in Takeo province yesterday. KT/Khem Sovannara

Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday that new farming techniques being implemented in the Kingdom will help it to reach a major target of achieving one million tonnes of milled rice exports which was set five years ago.

Mr Hun Sen said this during a visit, along with Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon and Australian Ambassador Pablo Kang to see demonstrations of modern farming machinery and a signature irrigation scheme.

The visit was also to showcase the ongoing development of Cambodia’s agricultural sector now considered the major pillar of the country’s economic prospects during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ambassador Pablo Kang with Prime Minister Hun Sen in Takeo province. KT/Khem Sovannara

“These new farming techniques are much easier than before, as these farmers now have hydraulic systems and modern agriculture factories to help us achieve our goals. However, we do still have problems such as rice diseases, insufficient transportation and machinery needed to process and exports such large volumes,” Mr Hun Sen said.

He said the one-million tonne export milestone can be achieved through hard work and smart planning although there are some hurdles to overcome.

Speaking about his visit yesterday, Ambassador Kang said: “Agriculture has always been the backbone of the Cambodian economy and a safety net for the Cambodian people.”

“As a friend and neighbour, Australia is building on decades of support for Cambodian agriculture to respond to the impact of COVID-19. As many Cambodians face hardship and uncertainty at this time, Australia is proud to play a role in supporting Cambodia’s food security and its economic resilience,” he added.

The irrigation scheme inspected in Ta Soung is connected to the Prek Ambil river and uses a single pump station to transport water through almost 50 kilometres of canals and field channels directly into farmers’ fields.

Funding for the scheme came from one of Australia Aid’s signature funding initiatives called the Australia Agricultural Value Chain Program (CAVAC).

CAVAC’s stated goals are to increase productivity and incomes for smallholder farmers in Cambodia through working in partnerships with the government and private sector and using a market systems approach to spread knowledge about new agricultural techniques.

According to the Australian Embassy, before the scheme was built in 2017, most of the farming households in Ta Soung could only grow one rice crop each year, using the receding waters from the annual flood.

However, farmers are now able to produce two or three crops each year, more than doubling their agricultural income. While water costs have reduced almost threefold, and average rice yields have grown from 4 to 5.5 tonnes per hectare.

CAVAC has expanded construction to 10 schemes located in Takeo, Prey Veng, and Kandal provinces since 2016.

Collectively, the scheme is now able to irrigate 9,000 additional hectares each year and have doubled rice production, representing about $10 million of additional income for farmers annually.

CAVAC also works with Provincial Departments of Water Resources and Meteorology to establish and train Farmer Water User Communities (FWUCs) to take responsibility for managing the scheme when operations begin.

In addition to sustainable irrigation services, CAVAC is supporting agricultural mechanisation, encouraging the use of better-quality seed and appropriate inputs, and promoting investment in higher-value crops and agro-processing.

These strategies – implemented with both the government and the private sector – are key to the modernisation of Cambodian agriculture which will support economic resilience in the face of COVID-19 challenges.

Sakhon has previously stated that Cambodia is looking to reach one million tonnes of milled rice exports set in 2015 due to high demand from the international market during COVID-19.

He said according to the first-quarter results, which increased more than 40 percent compared with the same period last year, exports for 2020 could reach the goal as set by the government five years ago.





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