BATTAMBANG PROVINCE, Cambodia – The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) organized back-to-back national-level events under the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)-funded project Agricultural Transformation and Market Integration in the ASEAN Region: Responding to Food Security and Inclusiveness Concerns (ATMI-ASEAN) on 22-23 July 2019 here.
The first activity was the roundtable discussion (RTD) on Policy Recommendations of Value Chain Analysis of Maize in Cambodia held on 22 July 2019 at President Hotel. The discussions focused on the rapid value chain study on maize conducted by MAFF-GDA under the ATMI-ASEAN project. The RTD aimed to solicit inputs and recommendations from various stakeholders involved in the maize industry of Cambodia for the successful completion of the policy study. Representatives from various government agencies in agriculture, research organizations, and the academe, maize farmers, and the private sector in Cambodia participated in the discussion. The RTD shall also guide the Cambodia National Project Steering Committee (NPSC) in their discussion on the possible national technical assistance (TA) activities of the ATMI-ASEAN Project for Cambodia.
Mr. In Sovanmuny, Deputy Director of Battambang Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (PDAFF), welcomed the participants to Battambang Province. He found the RTD relevant and timely as this can serve as a venue to hear the about the challenges and struggles of the maize farmers in relation to the production and marketing segments of the maize value chain. It will also allow them to solicit recommendations as to how these concerns can be addressed and the quality of their produce can be improved.
In her message on behalf of SEARCA and the ATMI-ASEAN Project, Ms. Bernice Anne C. Darvin, Program Specialist of SEARCA's Research and Development Department (RDD), emphasized the importance of involving several institutions and stakeholders in this activity to contribute to the discussion and enhance the evidence-based recommendations of the policy study. Developing countries such as Cambodia, are targeted to benefit from the ATMI-ASEAN Project through its broad components and activities such as policy studies, policy forums and roundtable discussions, and need-based technical assistance package for planning and policy development.
Mr. Prak Cheattho, Deputy Director General of MAFF-GDA, started his speech with a briefing on the current state of agricultural production in Cambodia. In the face of drought in the country, he emphasized that Cambodia's agriculture sector needs three main factors – water, market, and capital. He added that MAFF will need to coordinate with other ministries and that the private sector should listen to farmers to address these needs and consequently improve the quality of yield and price of agricultural products. Moreover, he stressed the importance of synergy in the segments of the chain to achieve a competitive maize industry. He therefore encouraged the participants to actively contribute to the discussion as their inputs will be used in the final report and policy recommendations of the study.
The resource speakers included Mr. In Sovanmuny; Mr. Sorn Vichet, Deputy Director of the Department of Administration, Planning, Accounting and International Cooperation of MAFF-GDA; Mr. Khim Lanh, Chief of Mechanism Unit of C.P. Cambodia Co., Ltd., and; Mr. Mam Somony, Deputy Director of the Department of Animal Production, General Directorate of Animal Health and Production, MAFF. Mr. Prak Cheattho and Mr. Jimmy B. Williams, ATMI-ASEAN Project Support Unit (PSU) Coordinator, facilitated the open forum that followed the presentations.
During the open forum, Mr. Mak Mony, Director, Department of Planning and Statistics, MAFF, stressed the need to develop a specific policy for its maize industry, focusing mainly on contract farming. The Cambodian government has a lot of plans for its agriculture sector, but implementation is currently hurdled by budgetary constraints. During the discussions, it was also raised that maize production, particularly in Battambang Province, is strongly dependent on C.P. as its major buyer. This monopoly has given C.P. almost full control over prices, and farmers are left with very little profits, thus, market diversification is imperative.
Hence, there is opportunity for the government to strengthen its role as a facilitator of public-private-producer partnerships (PPPs) in the maize industry. There is also a need to provide capacity building and technical assistance to farmers in maize production.
On 23 July 2019, MAFF-GDA organized a field visit of Cambodia NPSC members and SEARCA representatives to a maize farm and a semi-processing firm at Pouron Village, Treng Commune, Ratanakmondul District. During the visit, some of the points that were raised during the RTD were verified through key informant interviews with a farmer and a private firm engaged in maize production and processing, particularly issues on pricing and markets.
The gathered information served as inputs to the discussion in the 3rd Cambodia NPSC Meeting that was conducted in the afternoon. Proposed activities in the ATMI-ASEAN Project's TA package for Cambodia, as well as upcoming regional events, were presented by SEARCA for the NPSC's consideration. The NPSC expressed their gratitude to the project for providing support to Cambodia's policy initiatives. They are hopeful that the upcoming activities on roadmapping and policy development will facilitate the improvement of the maize industry in Cambodia.
The Cambodia NPSC consists of representatives from MAFF, Prek Leap National College of Agriculture, research organizations, farmers and civil society organizations and the private sector.