Farmers are suffering from the barring of Cambodian agricultural goods by Thai authorities at border checkpoints and face worsening economic problems if cross-border trade does not resume soon, local officials and agriculture experts said Monday.
Banteay Meanchey provincial agriculture Director Heng Bunhor said farmers are having difficulty paying back loans they took to pay for supplies, as the halt in cross-border trade has decreased demand for rice, cassava and other crops.
“It has directly affected farmers and indirectly affects vendors and business people,” he said, adding that Cambodian rice millers are now buying the rice at lower prices than Thai traders would offer.
Sok Pheap, director of the northwest military border coordination office, said Thai authorities had stopped the import of agricultural products at border checkpoints in Banteay Meanchey, Pailin, and Battambang at the end of January.
Governors of the three provinces were trying to negotiate with their Thai counterparts to allow normal trade to resume, Sok Pheap added.
Thai Embassy commercial affairs officer Jiranun Wongmonkol said the import restrictions had been imposed temporarily by local authorities along the border to calm down Thai farmer protests against the import of Cambodian goods.
She stressed that the Thai government was opposed to this measure, adding that the embassy had sent a letter to the Cambodian government January 26, explaining the situation and underlining that this was not a government decision.
“We are Asean countries, we should allow import,” she said.
Jiranun said she thought that restrictions had been lifted by now and said that trade was probably sharply down due to a decline in Thai demand for Cambodian farm products, adding that prices on Thai agricultural markets had also slumped, prompting the farmer protests.
Yang Saing Koma, director of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, said the lack of cross-border trade was having an impact on hundreds of thousands of commercial farmers selling cassava, soybean and corn, as demand and prices for their crops had gone down.
“If this continues this will affect employment on the farm,” he said, adding that investment by farmers next season would also decrease.
Yang Saing Koma said the sudden problems at the border crossings showed Cambodia’s dependence on the export of raw agricultural products to neighboring countries.
He urged the government to develop Cambodia’s agricultural storage and processing facilities in order to produce more processed agricultural goods for direct export to international markets and for domestic consumption.