In Rice Sector, Skills to Blame for Low Yields

A lack of skills and knowledge among farmers is to blame for the underdevelopment of Cambodia’s rice sector, as growers are unfamiliar with commercial farming methods that produce higher yields, according to a study released by the Asian Development Bank on Thursday.

In a survey of 750 farms in Cambodia’s three main rice-producing provinces—Battambang, Kompong Thom and Takeo—53 percent of farmers said the main constraint to production was their limited know-how.

The report, Improving Rice Production and Commercialization in Cambodia, says farmers should attempt to grow rice during the dry season, which is more productive than wet season cultivation by about 1 ton per hectare.

“Rice cultivation occurs mostly in the late wet season with far fewer farms cultivating in the dry season (56% versus 13%),” the report says.

“Farms that do cultivate in the dry season are largely irrigated, have higher yields, cultivate larger areas, and are more commercialized than those cultivating in the wet season.

“There also is substantial potential to increase commercialization as one-third of farm households only produce rice for subsistence purposes,” the report continues. “Increasing the intensity of land use, production, and commercialization therefore could potentially help to reduce the high rate of poverty incidence (59%) among farm households.”

Despite the potential of rice intensification—increasing production through the careful management of water, soil, nutrients and plants —most farmers are unaware of its benefits.

“Only 9% of farmers can identify practices related to the system of rice intensification, a series of cultivation practices that are promoted as raising yields through labor-intensive investments.

“Few farmers have made any changes to their farming practices, reflecting limited investments in skill and knowledge development for agriculture. Only 32% of farmers introduced a new seed variety, and 18% utilized a better land preparation technology.”

Local agriculture NGO Cambodian Center for the Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), which trains farmers in rice-intensification techniques, on Thursday announced a new program to encourage growers to switch from subsistence to commercial production.

“Among more than 100,000 farmers whom we have been supporting, we need to select those who truly have a strong vision and plan to be rural millionaires,” CEDAC president Yang Saing Koma said at an event to launch the program.

The farmers selected, Mr. Koma said, would receive special support from CEDAC.

“Our staff will work closely with [them] to support their production [and] marketing…so that they have the ability to generate high income and lead communities,” he said, adding that between 200 and 300 farmers have so far submitted applications.

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