The Agriculture Ministry has requested the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Economy and Finance to intervene and prevent the import of fruits and vegetables that contain pesticides into Cambodia, to improve food safety and increase local cultivation.
The request came after Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday advised the Agriculture Ministry to strengthen farmers’ capacity to increase local cultivation of different crops without using chemical fertilisers to supply domestic demand and reduce imports from abroad, especially fruits and vegetables which have been sprayed with pesticides.
Ministry spokesman Srey Vuthy said yesterday that following Mr Hun Sen’s call, Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon on Tuesday sent letters to his counterparts in the other two ministries, requesting their cooperation.
Mr Sakhon asked immigration police and customs officers, who are stationed at border gates, to crack down on the import of fruits and vegetables that contain chemicals.
“The Ministry of Agriculture does not have officers stationed at the border, so we can only request for help from the customs and immigration police officers in a bid to help improve food safety and also help our local production process,” Mr Vuthy said.
He said the ministry is further strengthening efforts to increase domestic fruit and vegetable cultivation by providing additional training to farmers on techniques that are safe for consumers.
“The Ministry of Agriculture in the past has already provided training for our farmers and will focus on teaching them methods on how to grow their crops without using pesticides,” Mr Vuthy said.
Meas Soksensan, spokesman for the Ministry of Finance, said that the ministry has not yet received Mr Sakhon’s letter as of yesterday afternoon, but its customs officers will take measures to strengthen and prevent the import of crops which contain pesticides to protect the welfare of the people.
“Once we receive the letter, we will send copies to our customs officers along with instructions on the types of crops to look out for,” he said.
Pat Sovann, agricultural official at French non-governmental organisation GRET Cambodia, said yesterday he supports the government’s measures to prevent the import of fruits and vegetables that contain pesticides and encourages farmers to grow more safe crops. At the same time, he also urged farmers to work in cooperatives to cultivate pesticide-free or organic fruits and vegetables which are of high quality and can compete with similarly grown imports.
“In order to compete with imported fruits and vegetables and also in line with the recommendation of the head of government, farmers have to produce safe and chemical-free vegetables so that we can compete in quality with the imported vegetables,” he said. “They should not think about higher production costs but should focus on improving the quality of their crops and ensure food safety for consumers.”