At a March 24 meeting held to summarise the achievements of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 2022 and set work direction for 2023, Agriculture Minister Dith Tina described the challenges that the agricultural sector had faced in the past year, and outlined the measures that were needed to address them.

“These challenges included an increase in production costs, as well as limited production infrastructure such as mesh greenhouses, low-cost irrigation systems, rice-drying kilns, freezers and warehouses. The commercialisation of the Kingdom’s key agricultural products has still not reached its full potential,” he said.

He added that the balance between conservation and sustainable development to reduce pressure on forestry and fishery resources remains a topic that requires closer attention.

In response to these challenges, the meeting attendees vowed to focus on food security and sustainable development.

“In this sense, ensuring the stability of domestic agricultural prices and reducing costs will be a priority. We must also create value-added luxury products for export. This will increase the income of farmers and the people at all stages of the agriculture price chain,” he explained.

He detailed the ministry’s strategies for achieving these goals.

“First, we will reduce costs by using the most efficient varieties of seed and employing energy saving technology. Second, we will support production infrastructure such as greenhouses by offering low-interest loans and working closely with development partners. Finally, we will form farming communities that will negotiate production contracts based on specific marketing plans. Membership of these communities will be voluntary, and based on free market principles,” he said.

“Low interest loans will incentivise the actors who network between farmers and markets via contract production. The Agricultural and Rural Development Bank has already provided about $380 million in loans to farmers and agricultural processors, with more than 60 per cent of these loans having an annual interest rate of just 5 to 5.5 per cent,” he added.

In 2023, the ministry hopes that more farmers will access these low-interest loans to meet the ministry’s vision for the farming sector.

To strike a balance between conservation and development, the ministry will undertake efforts to spearhead development projects that will support changes in people's livelihoods, from reliance on fisheries and forestry resources to other economically sustainable employment.