An Agriculture Ministry official said concerns raised by vegetable farmers over falling prices is due to oversupply, while growers are requesting the government to facilitate procurement mechanisms and diversification of crops.
The criticism stems from some farmers who said on social media that they had to discard large portions of their vegetables because they were not getting reasonable prices. Chan Heng, spokesperson for the Agriculture Ministry, said farmers are all growing the same vegetables against the instructions of the local officials, leading to an oversupply.
“We have instructed communities and private communities to gather and to divide what they grow” he said. “Some farmers are out of these communities that is why their vegetables are in excess supply.”
One of the farmers who was displeased at vegetable prices is Im Sopheak from Battambang province, who said he had to abandon tons of pak choy, a type of cabbage from China and Southeast Asia, because he was only getting 300 riel (7 cents) per kilogram from buyers.
Im Sopheak said he had received no instructions for crop diversification or any assistance from agriculture experts.
"I didn’t do any research. We grow by following each other,” he said.
Following his complaint, Battambang provincial officials visited his farm and said they would help him find reasonable prices for his produce.
Vegetable vendors in Phnom Penh’s Doeurm Kor and Neak Meas markets also said they were selling produce, like pak choy, for prices lower than last year.
Sok Piseth, a vegetable seller in Neak Meas market, said produce was being imported from countries like Vietnam at cheaper rates than local production. He added that limiting imports to prop up local prices could help people along the supply chain.
“If the government create a market for Khmer vegetables, our people will be relieved and farmers will get the sustainable prices,” he said.
The concerns over food production and sales has also included the rice sector, where farmers say prices are half what they were last year and millers and exporters are complaining of lack of working capital to procure paddy.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday said Cambodia was not a “communist country” and could not control prices, despite the government actively capping the prices of essential services and commodities.
Yang Saing Koma, an agriculture expert, said the government should build sustainable supply chains for vegetable farmers, who were probably good at production but not marketing or sales.
“In fact, that can be done depending on leadership that coordinates all the actors involved to work together,” he said.
VOA Khmer could not be reach Commerce Ministry spokespersons Seang Thai and Long Kem Vichet for comment on Friday.