Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday urged rice farmers to abstain from using chemical fertilizers, arguing that Cambodian rice’s appeal abroad is that it is grown using organic techniques.
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Speaking during a university graduation ceremony, the premier complained that more and more local farmers are choosing to use chemicals to boost yields and make crops grow faster. He said this is causing Cambodian rice to lose its appeal.
“Our paddy and milled rice are competitive within the Mekong sub-region. All countries in the Mekong sub-region produce similar types of rice – Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam all produce similar rice.
“Cambodia differentiates itself by not using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. There is strong demand for milled rice without chemicals,” Mr Hun Sen said.
The premier urged farmers to use natural fertilizers, arguing that the lack of chemicals in the country’s produce is a “strong point”.
He added that over-reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides leads to food safety concerns.
In January, the European Union imposed tariffs on Indica rice coming from Cambodia and Myanmar after it concluded that imports from these countries were hurting European producers.
Song Saran, CEO of Amru Rice, welcomed Mr Hun Sen’s remarks.
“It is a lofty target. We have to walk in this direction. We support sustainable and green agriculture. If we can continue going down this path, we can become a country renowned for supplying safe and healthy food,” Mr Saran said.
He said that when farmers have guaranteed markets they will meet buyers’ demand for food grown following organic techniques. He said the best way to ensure this happens is through contract farming schemes between farmers and buyers.
Mr Saran said public-private-producer partnerships can have a significant effect on controlling the use of chemical fertilizers. Once these mechanisms are established, results can be seen in as little as one or two years, he added.
Official figures from the Ministry of Agriculture show that Cambodia’s exports of milled rice rose by 8.3 percent during the first four months of the year, reaching 213,763 tonnes.
However, exports saw a decline of 1.5 percent last year compared to 2017, with just 626,225 tonnes shipped abroad.