Cambodia has set a target of modernising the agricultural sector to make it more competitive with high productivity in the next twelve years, Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon says.
The government’s vision in 2030 sees agriculture transformed to make it more competitive in the market, and to be sustainable to ensure food security, safety, and nutrition for Cambodians’ wellbeing.
Mr Sakhon spoke at a regional workshop on Wednesday on the role of mechanisation in strengthening smallholder resilience through the conservation of agriculture in Asia and the Pacific.
He said upgrading agriculture machinery to modern standards was the proper solution to strengthening and increasing productivity, reducing the labour force, and efficiently increasing the capacity of cultivated land to ensure food security and nutrition, boost the economy and reduce poverty.
“The Ministry of Agriculture has set two main goals,” Mr Sakhon said.
“The first, is to boost the growth in agriculture by increasing productivity, diversification, competitiveness and commercialisation.
“The second is to boost the use of cultivated land, and to develop and manage the forestry resources and fisheries with sustainability.”
Song Saran, the CEO of Amru Rice Cambodia, said that to boost farmers’ productivity with a competitive market and to achieve sustainability in agriculture in 2030, Cambodia had to look at the market drivers, with quality and safety as well as market share.
The country had also to look at crops planning and diversification, and infrastructure such as irrigation systems, logistics and storage to support the whole supply chain.
He added that financing agriculture with low interest rates was also important for the supply chain, while up-to-date technology was needed to link farmers and end users.
Mr Saran said that farmers had to stay up to date with technology to modernise their produce and measure their production costs and yields.
“We have to offer more training to farmers to equip them with the knowledge to increase productivity as they lack knowledge to comply with the market demands,” Mr Saran said.
“The government plays a crucial role to push these mechanism through public, private and producer partnerships to have a common goal in 2030 to develop sustainability in agriculture.
“If all relevant parties are on the same path, we will achieve high incomes in 2030,” he said.
“We have to transform to market-driven from product-driven to make us competitive.
“We have to know the needs of the market. By doing so, we hope we can achieve the goals in 2030 if we have a proper plan, and strengthened regulations and law,” he added.
Hean Vanhan, director-general of the ministry’s general directorate of agriculture, said the agriculture labour force had dropped to about 40 percent while labour was getting expensive. Therefore, machinery would come to replace people.
He said that to modernise agriculture, all stakeholders from farmers, users, distributors, suppliers, importers and exporters had to be involved.
He said machinery would boost productivity and competitiveness in the agriculture sector. This meant that farmers would have low production costs and get more profit in the production chain.
“We have many mechanisms to support our vision in 2030,” Mr Vanhan said.
“Currently, we have also changed the department of agriculture machinery to department of agriculture engineering.
“We also find more roles for machinery not only in growing but the irrigation systems of rice fields,” Mr Vanhan said.
Data from the Ministry of Economy and Finance shows that growth in agriculture dropped to one percent in the last five years. It was 4.5 percent from 2008 to 2012 and 7.2 percent from 2003 to 2007.
Agriculture’s share of Cambodia’s gross domestic product was 27.1 percent in the last five years, down from 33.6 percent from 2008 to 2012.
The data also revealed that crops, animal production and fisheries which are sub-sectors in the agriculture sector, dropped to 1.1 percent growth from 2013 to 2017, down from 5.5 percent in 2008-20012 and 12.1 percent in 2003-2007.