Cambodia’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) has put the blame on a lack of supportive infrastructure and funding for agriculture as barriers to develop the sector.
Talking with Khmer Times yesterday, Minister Veng Sakhon said that the slow progress of the Kingdom’s agriculture sector so far is because of inadequate investment in such things as such as road connections to transport products, irrigation and the high cost of electricity, which deter businesspeople from investing in processing facilities.
“We have already drawn up a roadmap for farming that paves the way for developing supporting infrastructure and made a clear plan to boost the sector with a variety of crops,” he said, adding that with this clear strategy should attract more processing investment.
Cambodia’s has agriculture land of more than four million hectares, according to Sakhon.
“We are accused of not doing anything to improve the sector such as finding markets for farmers and setting prices but, in reality, we have not invested in core infrastructure,” he said. “As a minister, I can do nothing, and I am very sad.”
He said currently the country is about 60 percent covered by irrigation systems but mostly they cannot be fully used.
“We have built more water channels but farmers still use machines to extract water to fill or pour into their farm and, with the high price of electricity, farmers consequently make no profit at all,” he said.
For the vegetable sector, farmers could produce food only in the winter season because of a lack of farming techniques such as using net houses (a form of polytunnel) which farmers could not afford without help from government and development partners.
“Last year we successfully implemented 128 net houses with farmers and this year we are building another 400,” he said. Sakhon added the Ministry of Agriculture provides farming and technical assistance and helps farmers with climate change resistance. Crop production contributes about 54 per cent of the sectors GDP. According to Sakhon, the annual budget for the agriculture sector is about $45 million – less than 1 percent of the total national budget – and most is only for the ministry’s operations.
Referring to overlapping jobs among the relevant ministries, he said, in order to boost the sector, the ministries need to sit down together to resolve the issue.
“We also need a study from each country in the region, case-by-case, such as Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, China and Japan, where everything is combined under a single ministry of agriculture,” he said.