Writer: Agriculture and Food Cluster Team
A joint initiative of ASEAN-German support and local cooperation in Cambodia sets a comprehensive business service to offer environmental friendly crop protection products to farms and bring safe vegetables from farms to consumers.
Eco-Agri Co. Ltd (EAC), cooperation between ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems (ASEAN SAS) and the Khmer Organic Cooperative (KOC), is geared to provide a healthy agriculture chain from farmers to customers where both obtain their maximum benefits. Through farmer contract, EAC supplies local produced biological products for crop protection to farmers and trains farmers with techniques on organic farming while ensuring stable and higher income and better health among the farmer. At the same time, consumers in Cambodia can enjoy more options and better varieties of organic products and can be ensured that the organic produces they purchase come from safe and trustable sources. Besides, EAC is preparing to import biological pest control solutions from ASEAN Member States to Cambodia in the future.
Agriculture in Cambodia
Almost one third of the land area in Cambodia is dedicated to agriculture. Slightly more than 50 per cent of the Cambodian population is employed in agricultural sector, which is generating 33.5 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. In the country the cost for chemical pesticide and fertiliser is increasing while the price of produce is still very low. Usage of inappropriate chemicals and fertilisers remain persistently high posing serious health hazards to both farmers and consumers. With an increasing awareness on health, consumers in Cambodia become to realize that conventional produces cause risk to their well-being. Therefore, the demand for organic produce is increasing double.
Organic supply chain and its challenges
Three levels of challenges along the organic supply chain in Cambodia consist of the key followings. The main challenges at the farm level are unavailability of bio inputs for organic production, inconsistent supply, high production cost and farmers’ capacity. The Challenges at the processing level include lack of technology for grading, packaging, storage, transportation and quality control. In the meantime, the challenge at the marketing level is limited market information including its demand, supply and prices.
Demand for overall vegetables and organic produces in Cambodia
Annual demand for vegetables in Cambodia is around 500,000 tons, of which at least 114,000 tons per year is imported from neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, according the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). Although annual demand for vegetables has been steadily growing over the last years, increasing by around 15 per cent from 2009 to 2013, however per capita annual vegetable consumption is almost five times below the WHO recommendation at 146 kg per person. Market opportunities for fresh vegetable in Cambodia can be, hence, further explored.
Khmer Organic Cooperative (KOC), a sister company of EAC, which is working on marketing channels of organic vegetables and fruits for EAC, estimates that market potential for organic produces is about 300 ton per month. Through the current engagement of EAC, KOC can bring about 10 per cent of the organic produces.
Organic culture, challenge and Eco-Agri Co. Ltd
“The vision of Eco-Agri Co. Ltd is providing safe food to Cambodian people while at the same time helping the farmer community. Mr. Ieng Sotheara, its founder, sees that chemical retailers in Cambodia try to gain more profits by encouraging farmers to overuse chemical pesticide and fertiliser. In Cambodia most farmers use chemical pesticide inappropriately which harms their health and environment. So, he decided to do this business to change the way farmers do agriculture and provide safe and clean food for the consumers. What we need to do is to re-educate both farmers and chemical retailers on environmental friendly agriculture practices to produce safe food for Cambodian consumers while promoting the organic products among them.
“We still face a lot of challenges. We still need to learn a lot in order to pave organic agricultural methods in Cambodia. Most farmers in Cambodia receive small income and will not be able to afford and apply organic and good practice of agriculture on their crops. We need to assist them and make them understand and change a step by step.
“Also, from the consumers’ perspective, although organic products are becoming more popular, still in most Cambodians’ opinion, they are costly. Consumers with middle to lower income cannot afford the products with these current prices. Alternatively, we are trying to introduce Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) instead of organic products to these groups of consumers so they can purchase safe food in a level they can afford.”
Ms. Thlang Sovann Pisey, Director of Eco-Agri Co. Ltd Cambodia
Hello message from farmers
“I am very happy with the price and technical support from EAC. I improve my knowledge and vegetable growing. I now learn that growing organic vegetables does not only benefit me but also consumers and environment.” Ms. Ing Sarun, 58, Rice Farmer and Vegetable Grower of over than 30 years, Kampong Nung village, Kon Sat commune, Tek Chhu district, Kampot province, Cambodia.
Ms. Sarun sells her organic vegetables at a double price of local market since she starts providing fresh produces to the KOC. She obtains benefits from attending the KOC organic production training on topics such as technical cultivation, compost making, pest management and farm management. There are also meetings among herself, group members and representative of the KOC and EAC to discuss about production plan and fixing price of vegetables as well as sharing constraints in production to inquire possible supports from the meeting regarding pest, seed and other techniques. Normally, KOC pays her every two to three times per month.
Eco-Agri Co. Ltd (EAC)
Partner: Khmer Organic Cooperative (KOC)
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Implemented by: ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems
Dr. Matthias Bickel
Project Director, ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems
M: + 66 81 938 8130