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Chemical-free vegetable project takes off fast

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
In January, the government designated eight provinces to start boosting vegetable production. KT/Chor Sokunthea

A government project to boost the production of chemical-free vegetables has taken-off, with supplies already available in Cambodian markets, according to an Agriculture Ministry official.

Kean Sophea, deputy director of the department of horticulture and subsidiary crops at the ministry, told Khmer Times yesterday that around 50 tonnes of chemical-free vegetables had been produced to supply markets in Phnom Penh and the provincial cities.

“We hope that by mid-2018, we will have 150 tonnes of vegetables or around 70 percent of local consumption per day to meet market demand,” said Mr Sophea.

“We hope to save about $200 million a year from imported vegetables from neighbouring countries,” he added.

Research conducted by the Centre for Policy Studies shows that between 200 to 400 tonnes of vegetables are imported daily from neighbouring countries. The research found that between $150 million and $250 million is spent annually on vegetable imports from Vietnam, Thailand and China.

In January, the government announced that it had designated eight provinces to start boosting vegetable production from this year in a move to curb imports from neighbouring countries, mainly Vietnam.

The eight provinces are Kandal, Battambang, Pursat, Prey Veng, Kampong Cham, Tboung Khmum, Kampong Thom and Siem Reap.

The project, called Boosting Food Projection 2017-2019, has a government budget of some $20 million, of which about $10 million is for the production of vegetables.

Mr Sophea said that for the project’s first stage, the government is working in partnership with 820 farming households to produce 50 tonnes of chemical-free vegetables a day.

In mid-2018, he said, the project would be expanded to include 2,060 farming households that could supply 150 tonnes of vegetables a day to markets.

Mr Sophea said all farmers in the Boosting Food Projection project were complying with good agricultural practices (GAP) principles to grow vegetables that were safe for human consumption.

“To keep the vegetables safe, famers are recommended not to use pesticides two weeks before harvesting their vegetables to supply to the markets,” he added.

Alexandre Huynh, representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Cambodia, told Khmer Times recently that FAO has provided technical assistance to Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce to help develop the Food Safety Law that aims to prevent, control and eliminate hazards throughout the food-chain.

“The law also ensures fair trade practices in relation to food,” he said.

“The Food Safety Law will be an important landmark for food safety in Cambodia.

“However, some investments need to be made to strengthen technical capacity and also for the country to be equipped with appropriate infrastructure, like, for example, laboratory facilities for testing samples to determine contamination.”

Mr Sophea said the Agriculture Ministry would raise awareness of food safety, particularly to boost the consumption of chemical-free vegetables.

Vongsey Vissoth, secretary of state for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said the government’s Boosting Food Projection project would also emphasize the move towards large-scale production and partnerships with wealthy farmers and the private sector to boost vegetable production.

“I get very upset once we start talking about importing vegetables. We have very rich soil and plenty of water resources but we import a lot and some complain the imported vegetables contain chemicals,” he said.

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