Organic farmers want more of their fellow Cambodians to begin consuming organic produce, in hopes that they can expand the amount of vegetables that the country produces without the use of chemicals.
Standing in her organic salad and tomato farm, 58-year-old farmer Em Rim from Somrong Torng commune, in Kompong Speu province’s Krohaeng district, said that the growing of organic vegetables was hard. More patience is required compared with farming that uses fertilizers, she admits, but she believes her produce is more healthy for consumers.
“I want people to buy more [organic produce] because the vegetables are hard to grow. I want more support,” she said.
“Growing organic plants is hard. The plants don't grow big fast, compared with those that consume chemicals. We find it hard to care for organic plants as well because without chemical fertilizers, it is more difficult,” Em Rim added.
Em Rim is growing organic crops on a 10-acre field, and can distribute her produce through the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, known as CEDAC.
She supplies from 15 to 60 kilograms of produce three days a week, she said, adding that supply varies depending on the needs of consumers in her commune.
According to CEDAC, about 250 farmers have begun growing organic vegetables in four provinces—Takeo, Kompong Speu, Kompong Chhnang and Siem Reap. Elsewhere in the country, there are about 2,000 farmers growing organic rice, which is exported to the United States and the European Union, according to Kiem Makarady director of the environment and health department at CEDAC.
The consumption of organic produce was likely to rise as consumer become more concerned about eating healthily, he said.
“On one hand, the buyers or consumers understand the risks of chemicals. Thus, we give support by providing suitable value, and we can say the additional value in accordance with the labor of the growers,” Makarady said.
“As a result, the trend of organic farming will be on the rise from one year to another to provide for the local as well as regional and international markets.”
The Ministry of Agriculture is also supporting farmers by teaching them new organic farming techniques, he added.
CEDAC operates eight shops selling organic products in Phnom Penh, as well as three markets in Tbong Khmum, Kompong Thom and Siem Reap provinces.
A new market for selling organic products will be installed in Prey Veng province beginning in January next year, according to Chhay Song Leang, product manager of Community of Organic Products Market, a private company that cooperates with CEDAC to sell organic produce.
Song Leang said the national supply of organic products had increased from about 500-600 kilograms a day last year, to 1 ton per day this year.
As well as being healthier for consumers, organic vegetables fetch higher prices for the farmers, he said.
“Comparing cabbage or cauliflower, we buy at a higher price than the price at the normal market…,” he said. “For instance, if the price sold at normal market is just 2,000 riel, we add 1,200 riel, meaning they will get 3,200 riel.”