Farmers must increase organic vegetable production in order to meet local demand, agriculture officials said.
Cambodia needs about a million tons of vegetables annually, whereas local supply only makes up about 44 percent of the demand, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Hean Vanhorn, a deputy director general at the agriculture ministry, said on Friday that government intervention was needed to boost production.
“We have to boost vegetable production ... when we have our own products that are quality vegetables, such as vegetables produced [organically], then imports will be stopped,” he said.
A recent study by the NGO ICCO showed that 95 percent of consumers were concerned about the safety of both domestic and imported produce.
Min Sor, executive director of Life With Dignity, a lobby group, said Cambodian farmers are poorly educated on the issue of pesticide use, adding that access to markets was also a problem.
“It’s difficult to transport their products to the market because they have to take a long route and their infrastructure is very remote from the market,” he said.
In its most recent budget, the government allocated some $46 million to bolster the agricultural sector, with about $20 million earmarked for rice and vegetable production by 2018.
But Vanhorn said officials at the agriculture ministry faced difficulties in accessing the funds.
“It takes quite a while for us to obtain the money,” he said, adding that Cambodia also lacks the facilities to monitor food safety.
Reports of illness after consuming local produce are not uncommon.