The Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries has encouraged farmers to increase vegetables, fruits and rice-growing productivity by applying good agricultural practices (GAP).
This, it said, will help the Kingdom to supply such produce to the domestic and export markets.
The government has banned the import of vegetables, fruits, and other foodstuffs that contain chemicals harmful to public health. Farmers here are being educated about the proper types of fertilisers to use.
Ministry secretary of state Hean Vannhorn told The Post on Thursday that most farmers were confused as fruits and vegetables grown with chemical fertilisers and pesticides seemed as healthy as when organic fertilisers such as those from plants, kitchen waste and manure is used.
“Fruits and vegetables grown with natural fertilisers and those grown with chemical fertilisers produced by factories, according to correct technical standards, provide the same health benefits,” Vannhorn said.
However, he said as a trade-off, the use of natural fertilisers can help maintain soil quality in the long run. But growth is slow, which sometimes doesn’t meet market demands.
Chemical fertilisers such as Urea and NPK are rich in nitrogen and potassium and grow vegetables and plants quickly to meet market needs. But using chemical fertilisers in the long term will damage soil quality and affect biodiversity.
“The ministry is encouraging farmers to grow vegetables, fruits and rice according to the new safety rules that allow for the use of natural and chemical fertilisers at the same time,” Vannhorn said.
He said the ministry’s Agriculture Services Programme for Innovation, Resilience and Extension (Aspire) has helped farmers in Baren Krom village, in Kandal province, to work as a Safe Vegetable Business Group (SVBG) and develop agricultural productivity using GAP principles.
The group includes producers of safe vegetables and suppliers of seeds, organic fertilisers and natural pesticides, as well as distributors of agricultural products to the market. The cooperation along the production chain has made the SVBG successful, Vannhorn said.
The group also understands what constitutes safe vegetables supplied to the market.
Khuth Kim Ang, an SVBG member in Baren Krom village, has been growing safe vegetables successfully according to technical guidance provided by Aspire officials.
“We cannot grow anything we want. We have a plan and grow vegetables under a pre-agreed contract which includes price and quantity and sell to vendors who are also SVBG members,” he said.
Kim Ang said safe vegetables are those that do not accumulate agrochemicals that affect the health of consumers.
Still, he said the challenge in cultivating safe vegetables with new technology demands a lot of capital. Without the commitment to grow safe vegetables under the SVBG, it may not be successful, he said.