A $20 million government agricultural initiative achieved remarkable results in its three years of operation but still fell far short of its target, the General Directorate of Agriculture reported.
The Boosting Food Production programme, a three-year initiative launched in mid-2016, had set a goal of supplying the local market with 60,000 tonnes a year of vegetables that meet international quality and safety standards.
Spearheaded by the ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and Economy and Finance, the project was motivated by the pinch of rising food prices, unfavourable trends in international competitiveness and the more than $200 million in annual vegetable imports.
In its summary report of the initiative, the directorate said the 2,000 households signed on to the programme were able to produce 28,130 tonnes of vegetables last year, or 77 tonnes per day. This represents just 47 per cent of the target.
Last year’s figure is equivalent to a 13 per cent jump from the 24,900 provided in 2018, which was a far cry from the 10,200 generated in 2017, it said.
The project benefited 58,280 people directly and 301,680 indirectly during its implementation, it added.
Kean Sophea, deputy director of the agriculture ministry’s Department of Horticulture and Subsidiary Crops, noted that the initiative was a bit too ambitious and that it assumed that the average land area owned by the households was 4,000sqm.
However, that number is actually closer to 3,000sqm, he said.
Looking on the positive side, Sophea said: “Having provided farmers with modern techniques and irrigation systems, we were able to chalk up a higher volume of vegetables each year.”
Still, he said the first iteration of the programme was insufficient to cover the massive needs of producers and consumers.
On the other hand, it highlighted the potential of the Kingdom’s farmers to churn out more safe vegetables and fragrant paddy varieties when backed by technical assistance and given material and financial support, he said.
“The General Directorate of Agriculture wants to continue the food production promotion project in a second phase.
“[This is] to ensure clear and effective achievements toward expanding financial and economic profit to locals in the 11 target provinces and subsequent ones as per their cultivation potential,” Sophea said.
Ek Chantha, a farmer and member of the Ten Baht Agricultural Community based in Pursat province, said the community received technical training from the directorate and development partners as part of the initiative.
She said its members strive to grow vegetables according to good agricultural practices (GAP) and government policy.
“We’re seeing success these days, having been awarded GAP certification. Our farmers’ vegetable market has received loads of support, netting us higher prices, which has in turn allowed us to lead better lives and turn to growing safer vegetables,” Chantha said.
According to the report, the households covered by the initiative farm on 697ha, of which 1,873 own less than 1ha and 127 have more.
Farmers were organised into 138 safe-vegetable production groups and 33 vegetable production communities to grow “safe vegetables” in accordance with GAP regulations, it said.
“On-site inspections showed that farmers were able to expand their cultivation area when equipped with adequate irrigation systems and armed with better vegetable production techniques,” it added.