Curb Vietnamese vegetable imports, say local farmers

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The price of bok choy has dropped to around 500 riel per kilogramme and cauliflower to around 1,500 riel per head in Sa’ang district. Heng Chivoan

The private sector and vegetable farmers are complaining of falling vegetable prices during the ongoing harvest season and have called on the authorities to curb vegetable imports from Vietnam.

Khuon Khin, a vegetable farmer in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district, said the price of leaf mustard has dropped to around 500 riel ($0.12) per kilogramme and cauliflower to around 1,500 riel per head.

Just two weeks ago, he said, leaf mustard was worth around 1,200 riel per kilogramme while cauliflower could fetch between 3,000 and 4,000 riel per head.

“Now, prices are very low, but I ask the Ministry of Agriculture, [Forestry and Fisheries] to seek a market with reasonable prices for our farmers,” he said.

The 45-year-old said he has harvested between five and 10 tonnes of vegetables per season on his 24.28ha for almost 20 years. “I am worried that the large number of importers will bring down prices, causing us to give up hope in vegetable farming,” he said.

The current drop in vegetable prices may have been caused by high imports from Vietnam, despite a large supply of domestic vegetables on the market, said Khim Khem, a vegetable shop owner in the Neak Meas market in Tuol Kork district’s Phsar Doeum Kor commune in Phnom Penh.

“This year’s vegetables are very cheap. At wholesale prices, a head of cauliflower would be between 800 and 1,000 riel, and a kilogramme of leaf mustard at 400 riel,” he said.

At the Neak Meas market, which is the capital’s main vegetable distribution hub, Khem is able to sell between one and two tonnes of vegetables per day – which he bought from a farm in Sa’ang district.

“If a curb on imports is effective, it will help make our vegetables more affordable,” he said.

Bun Sieng, a member of Gold Green, a local distributor that buys vegetables from farmers, said his company supplies between 300 and 400kg of vegetables to be distributed on the Deum Kor and Neak Meas markets in Phnom Penh.

She said most farmers in Sa’ang district grow vegetables according to the ministry’s Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) guidelines, which is not as expensive as growing organic vegetables.

“The current prices of vegetables vary according to the prices on the Doeum Kor market, which is the benchmark.

“For example, if the Doeum Kor market sells something [in bulk] for 500 riel per kilogramme, buying directly from farms [in small quantities] will cost between 700 and 800 riel per kilogramme,” she said.

Ministry spokesman Srey Vuthy told The Post on Wednesday that the ministry is producing safe vegetables through its GAP policy in an effort to boost local vegetable prices.

“The ministry is engaging in contract-farming with collectors and promoting the product in order to compete with the imported products’ market,” he said.

Last year, Sa’ang district’s farmers supplied 134,400kg of organic vegetables to the local market, said Doung Kim Chhean, a monitoring and rating adviser for Kandal provincial Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Services Programme for Innovation, Resilience and Extension (Aspire) project.

“The [district’s] supply of organic vegetables will have increased by about 20 per cent by the end of the year,” Kim Chhean said.

He said Sa’ang district spans 3,570ha, of which 1,443ha is agricultural land, on which mainly vegetables are grown.