Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

PM Hun Manet Lays Out Agricultural Policy To Improve Farmers’ Livelihoods

View of paddy fields in Kandal province. Picture taken on November 2, 2023. (CamboJA/ Pring Samrang)
View of paddy fields in Kandal province. Picture taken on November 2, 2023. (CamboJA/ Pring Samrang)

The new government has announced plans to promote agricultural products, establish price equilibrium in the rice market, provide technical support, and modernize traditional farming.

On Monday, Prime Minister Hun Manet revealed the fifth and sixth priority policy programs with regards to agricultural development. The goals of the programs include promoting agricultural production, finding markets, stabilizing agricultural prices through financing programs, deploying commune or sangkat agriculture officers and developing modern agricultural communities.

Hun Manet said the consolidation of farmers’ communities and the organization of modern agricultural communities are important as it helps to increase community production, and ensure effective production and supply chains, in which the government is prepared to set up interventions as well as other means.

“We have identified a goal to move from family farming to modern agriculture and large-scale industrial agriculture, which requires individual farmers to become part of modern farming communities and come up with ideas to make their community competitive,” he added.

In the common policy package, communities should work together to make Cambodia competitive, which would help the agriculture sector compete internally and externally, and enable the economy to grow.

“This consolidation [collective community] is very important, and it would ensure efficient production and supply chains,” Hun Manet said.

According to him, about 10,000 people have applied to become commune level agriculture officers following an announcement in October to recruit 250 officers in priority areas in the agriculture sector in 17 provinces this year.

These provinces comprise Takeo, Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Battambang, Kampot, Pursat, Prey Veng, Preah Vihear, Tbong Khmum, Svay Rieng, Oddar Meanchey, Kandal and Mondulkiri.

In 2024, the Ministry of Civil Service said another 800 officers will be recruited, followed by an additional 550 in 2025.

“For me, agriculture does not matter what we grow [crops] or raise [animals] but most importantly what we cultivate or raise must result in a good harvest. There should be a market [for it] and it should bring a lot of income to farmers. This is [our] main goal.

“If we want to help them [farmers], [it should] not only be by helping [with] the market, but [also] financially and technically,” Hun Manet said.

In addition to technical assistance, consultation and credit, $100 million has been allocated by the government to develop the sector as well as its production chains via Agriculture and Rural Development Bank and SME Bank.

Hun Manet also urged relevant officials to be proactive by providing guidance to farmers to change instead of reacting to ongoing cultivation.

He explained that reaction means telling people who have been farming since the time of their ancestors how to farm. “We can respond in such a way to help them, so if there are 1000 families and 100 products, we only help 100 products.”

By being proactive, officers can think whether economies of scale can help farmers to make a change by growing another crop.

“For example, that place might have a potential [to grow] cashew nuts [to meet] exports [of] three million tons. However, that place grows rice paddy now. If we react only by helping them grow [paddy] well, he will find his own market.”

“But if we have a proactive principle, it means that we can turn that place into a Kampong Thom province or Preah Vihear, which is [part of the] goal to expand the cultivation of cashews, that can lead to the establishment of processing factories,” Hun Manet said.

A cashew tree in Rattanakiri province. Picture taken on May 16, 2020. Photo supplied

The Centre for Policy Studies director Chan Sophal said the policy for promoting agricultural products and finding markets is a priority which farmers have wanted, for which the key is effective policy implementation. 

“[With regards to] the deployment of agricultural officers at the commune level, I think they [officers] should play a key role in data collection and dissemination of technical training which is available on YouTube or online,” he said.

Sophal mentioned that for the implementation of policy, there must be sufficient resources, flexible procedures and officials, who are committed to serving national interests.

Than Leng, a farmer in Banteay Meanchey province, remarked that he is not aware of the government policy, but shared that he recorded a good yield from rice cultivation. However, the cost of fertilizer and labor was high, he said.

“I can earn enough income because this year I have been growing rice seedlings that can produce a good yield twice a year,” he added.

Leng owns 13 hectares of rice fields. This year, he harvested eight tons per hectare. The price of rice is 1,200 riel per kilo, compared to 1,050 riel per kilo last year.

He supported the government policy in promoting agriculture products, especially in the search for appropriate market prices. 

“When there is a good market price, it is easy to sell because at the moment, we are relying on brokers,” Leng said.

Another farmer, Mot Mon, in Tbong Khmum province’s Dambe district, said farmers face various challenges including the lack of expertise and techniques to combat climate change.

“[There is] a lack of guidance for local farmers to adapt to weather conditions. I have never seen them [officers] come to teach the community in my area,” said Mon, who owns two hectares of cashew plantation and 500 acres of farmland.

“Like my cashew nuts, I sold them for only 3,200 riel per kilogram. I could not afford the labor cost because the price of fertilizer and pesticide was expensive. There were also other expenses,” Mon said. Another problem is the price of cashew which drops when the harvest season starts.

He said it is good for farmers if the price of cashew is between 7,000 and 8,000 riel  but if the price continues to fall, farmers will become more indebted and might need to migrate to earn money to pay off their debts.

“For me, year after year, farming has become more expensive,” Mon said.

In supporting the new policy to help farmers, he said: “I think it is good for us to be included in the community as farmers know what is important to them.”

(Additional reporting by Runn Sreydeth)