Farmers Earn Extra Profit With Pest Exports

Villagers in several provinces have found innovative ways to deal with pests around the house and farm: They feed them to their neighbors.

Rice farmers in Banteay Mean­chey province are busy in the fields, catching grasshoppers to export to Thailand, where they will be fried and eaten as delicacies.

One kilogram of the crunchy insects can fetch a price of $2. Every day, villagers catch more than 2 tons of grasshoppers for export to Thailand, said the director of Banteay Meanchey’s agriculture department, Huot Sothy.

“Besides growing rice, villagers can catch grasshoppers for extra money,” said provincial Cabinet Chief Moung Prasoeuth. He said he hopes that the grasshopper trade will improve living standards in the province.

The insects are caught in nets during the day; at night, farmers will go into the fields with mounted lamps in hopes of catching more.

The grasshopper hunting started last year, after swarms of the insects destroyed rice plantations across the province, said provincial Environmental Director Puth Chuop. When they learned that the Thais would pay well for the destructive pests, villagers started collecting them for export.

Puth Chuop warned that the grasshoppers are a food source for other animals, and that wiping them out could damage the environment.

However, he said, “I dare not ask them to stop catching the grasshoppers, because grass­hoppers destroy their plantations.”

The grasshopper export trade is also growing in Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces, officials said.

In Takeo province, the problem is not grasshoppers, but mice. They devour rice fields, and for years, several districts have been trying to eliminate them, provincial officials said.

Last year, villagers in Takeo’s Angkor Borei, Borei Cholsar, Koh Andet and Kirivong districts were offered about $0.08 for every mouse they killed, said Hang Try, the province’s deputy agriculture director.

The Agriculture Ministry spent almost $500 on the campaign, which did little to reduce the mouse population, officials said.

But villagers found that they could skin the mice and sell them to Vietnam as food. The Viet­namese will pay about $0.75 for a kilogram of mice.

Officials said a single villager could catch 5 to 10 kg of mice in a day, making mouse hunting a profitable sideline.

Where the government program failed, market forces prevailed, and the mouse population began to drop. “This year the mouse population is smaller, and we don’t need to conduct the campaign,” said Hang Try.

The current decline, though remarkable, seems to be due to natural causes rather than overhunting, he said. “Some years the mouse population will rise, some years it will decline.”

Villagers, however, haven’t given up on their second income, and continue their mouse-hunting habits.


Related Stories

Latest News