Cambodian corn production saw slow development last year with crop yields increasing a mere two per cent on 2017 to 715,000 tonnes, remaining far short of Cambodia’s peak in 2012 when production reached nearly one million tonnes.
According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures – endorsed by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon – Cambodian corn production amounted to 715,000 tonnes last year, up from 700,000 tonnes in 2017.
However, the USDA data highlighted a big gap compared to Cambodia’s peak in 2012 when corn production amounted to 951,000 tonnes, the highest since records began in 1960.
Sakhon said on Sunday that the Kingdom’s corn production is slowed by the fact that the crop is still grown on smaller scale family farms, while market prices fluctuate annually due to a lack of modernisation of growing and drying methods.
While corn is used mainly for feed-processing production, the minister said the old drying method of corn used by farmers cannot adequately respond to market demand.
“We hope that in the future our government will be able to subsidise [corn] to help farmers and agricultural communities to solve the issue of warehouses and drying silos so that demand can be stabilised and the price increased,” he said.
According to Sakhon, the price of corn last year ranged from 900 riel to 1,100 riel ($0.22 to $0.27) per kg for dry corn.
He added that corn is grown in the provinces along the Kingdom’s rivers – including Kampong Cham, Tbong Khmum, Pailin and Battambang provinces – and is used mainly for exports, with only a tiny fraction consumed locally, especially in feed production.
Asked why the ministry doesn’t have its own record of Cambodian corn production, the minister said informal exports and production have impeded officials efforts and resources to compile such a record. He added that while the USDA data does not 100 per cent reflect production, it remains a reliable benchmark.
Tim Lang – a corn farmer in Sampov Loun district’s Ta Sda village in Battambang Province who grew 10ha of corn, harvesting 60 tonnes, last year – said on Sunday that unpredictable market demand is a major problem for him to expand his cultivation area.
Lang said profit from corn production was good in the 2018 harvest season as he could sell wet corn at 650 riel per kg. But, he said, the price of corn was low in 2017 – only about 400 riel per kg – with many farmers complaining about losses.
According to Lang, if the price of corn can stabilise at above 600 riel per kg, farmers will profit and it will encourage them to increase production from year to year.
“There was a big demand for corn in the 2018 harvest season and we could not have a yield as big as the demand."
“We still don’t know yet if we will expand our corn production this year even if the price improves. I will wait a bit more and see if there will be more rain,” he said.