The agriculture ministry has allocated 100 rice-planting machines to communities across 13 provinces. Distributed on September 13, the transplanters were a gift from former Prime Minister Hun Sen, aimed at bolstering the production of seeds and paddy rice exports.

Yang Saing Koma, secretary of state for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the machines help reduce labour, save time and minimise seed waste.

“While the device is semi-automatic, still requiring manpower, they’re more efficient than relying on manual labour alone,” he said.

Siang Koma added that the machines are part of a larger initiative to develop a robust seeding system and expand the market for milled rice. They are particularly focused on areas with the potential for large-scale paddy rice cultivation for foreign trade. Specifically, fragrant cultivars such as Sen Kra’op and Phka Rumduol will benefit from this programme.

“We aim to cultivate Phka Romduol across 250,000ha nationally to meet export demand by 2025,” he said.

Sem Sarom, president of the Happy Bird Rice Cultivation Community in Takeo province, who recently received one such transplanter, said that while they are grateful for the equipment, there’s a learning curve ahead.

“None of us knows how to operate it yet, and the harvest season has just ended. So it’s likely to be used next year.

“Although the machine still requires some manpower, it’s more efficient. Labour shortages have impacted transplantation, but this machine will significantly reduce seed waste,” he said.

As part of its National Policy for the Development of the Agricultural Sector for 2022-23, the ministry has outlined goals aimed at modernisation. These include commercialisation of the agricultural value chain, public and private investment, sustainable growth and resilience to climate change, as well as institutional and inter-sectoral reforms.