The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) has been working with the private sector and development partners to integrate the use of agricultural machinery into middle-class farming communities to respond to the current and future decline in the agricultural workforce.
Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon said that to implement the government’s vision to modernise Cambodia’s agriculture sector, MAFF’s General Department of Agricultural Engineering has been making great efforts in research and cooperation with relevant parties to gradually promote the use of machinery in line with relevant geographical characteristics, the size of a farmer’s land and his or her resources.
“We have seen a decrease in the workforce in the agriculture sector recently, so we need a strategy to deal with the challenges this is creating,” he said. “Our research shows that Cambodia has mostly smallholders…so we need to increase the use of small machinery that can benefit them according to the resources available to them.”
Sakhon said that the Kingdom’s workforce in agriculture in 1993 was more than 80 percent and so far has decreased to about 32 percent. He expects that it will continue to decline to around 20 percent by 2050.
“Now the use of machinery in farming and harvesting has reached 90 percent and we are integrating new technology that allows farmers to increase their harvests as well,” he said.
While most farmers may not be able to afford some kinds of machinery, the minister said that the ministry is cooperating with the private sector to provide leasing services to their communes to help farmers who are not be able to buy the equipment.
Last week, the government via MAFF offered 130 rice-planting machines to a farming community in Takeo province’s Prey Kabas district.
Marin Udom, deputy general-manager of the agriculture equipment division of RMA Cambodia, said that most farmers cannot afford their products outright so they need a loan to buy the equipment.
“Farmers do not have enough money and they need a loan from a bank which currently comes with very strict terms. We are a supplier and the government as well as MAFF should urge loan providers to ease and facilitate the process of lending,” he said.
Udom added that during the current COVID-19 pandemic, farmers are finding it more difficult to get loan approvals and they rely on their children who work in manufacturing, which is also affected by Coronavirus, for revenue.
“Now those who need to buy new agriculture equipment, the banks can lend them only 50 percent of its cost when before they provided up to 70 to 80 percent,” he noted.
Udom said on average RMA Cambodia could sell about 300 units a year and this year sales declined.
The government aims to make Cambodia a high middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050. At the same time, it has an ambition to modernise Cambodia’s agricultural sector to be more competitive, environmentally resilient and sustainable in order to increase the income of farmers’ families, expand prosperity and improve the wellbeing of the Cambodian people.
China-based Zoomlion Heavy Industry and Technology Co Ltd in September handed over agricultural machinery to MAFF to contribute to modernising agricultural work in Cambodia.
Sakhon said the modernisation of the agriculture sector is also a new approach and has the scope to develop it, focusing on intensive production, relying mainly on the use of new technology, research and development, mechanisation as well as increasing irrigation capacity
to raise productivity and diversify crops and markets.
Figures from the Ministry of Agriculture show that in 2020 the rice harvest increased to more than 85 percent of the total cultivated area. In particular, the use of tools for sowing and planting rice are also on the rise, as they are for planting vegetables, irrigating, fertilising and harvesting potatoes.