Cambodia has just launched a new registry for companies that wish to import biological control agents (BCA), effectively allowing the importation of these organisms which are widely used in other countries for pest control.
BCA are natural organisms that are used to fight pests, such as the larva of certain flies which are used to combat insects that kill crops. Controlling pests ¬– whether they are insects, mites, weeds or plant diseases – through this method is known as biological control.
Speaking at a workshop on the subject yesterday, Phum Ra, the director of the department of agricultural legislation at the Ministry of Agriculture, said his ministry has officially opened a registry for companies who want to import BCA, a move he hailed as a milestone for the agricultural sector as it will reduce dependency of chemical products and widen producers’ markets abroad, particularly when it comes to organic buyers.
He added that the country’s current overreliance on chemical fertilizers is debilitating the soil, causing pesticide resistance and hampering access to international markets that demand higher and greener standards of agriculture production.
“Pesticides costs a lot of money and negatively impact the environment, the soil and our health,” he said. “BCA will help farmers reduce their use of chemical pesticides and will boost crop yields.”
Mr Ra went on to explain that the ministry’s decision follows a rise in demand for BCA products in the kingdom and that they are being assisted by German development agency GIZ in laying the groundwork for the new initiative.
“The new registry and import documents are fully aligned with Asean guidelines on regulation, use and trade of BCA,” he said. “Now any commercial entity can register to import BCA into Cambodia.”
However, Mr Ra warned that due to the novelty of using these agents in the kingdom, there is a need for all stakeholders to cooperate to train farmers in their usage and to acquire the necessary equipment for their proper deployment.
Mao Canady, the manager of Eco-Agri Co, Ltd, welcomed the new registry. She said she had never imported these products before because of a lack of regulation, but said her company was already producing trichoderma – a type of BCA used against certain fungi – at their facilities to distribute locally.
“We are happy with the government’s decision. It will build trust for farmers, the private sector and consumers,” Ms Canady said, adding that BCA are generally cheaper than chemical pesticides and have a much smaller footprint on the soil and the environment.
San Bunika, the country director of Agri-Smart Association, said the Ministry of Agriculture did the right thing by establishing the registry and encouraged the authorities to keep facilitating the process of obtaining BCA by cutting red tape and making it easier for farmers to acquire the products.
“We use too many pesticides in Cambodia. BCA will reduce the need for them,” Mr Bunika said.
“The government should continue to facilitate the import of these products by, for example, having labels in the local language so that farmers understand what BCA are.”
According to the department of agricultural legislation, more than 40,000 tonnes of chemical pesticides have already been imported this year. There are more than 100 companies in the country that import pesticides and fertilizers.