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Regional Conference on Organic Agriculture in Asia

December 12 – 15, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand


Mr Keam Makarady
Programme Officer
Cambodian Centre for Study and Development on Agriculture (CEDAC)
Country Report on Organic Agriculture in Cambodia
December 2007
Mr Keam Makarady

1. Current status and development of the organic agriculture sector

Cambodia was renowned for producing the finest rice in South East Asia before 30 years
of civil war intervened. The country has large areas of cultivated land, suitable for
various types of commercial crops. The agricultural sector contributes approximately 30
% of the total GDP, and rice and fish are the main stable food for Cambodians.

With recent improvements in production technologies, farmers are starting increasingly

to look into market oriented production rather than simply producing for their own
consumption needs. In this context, organic rice and several other crops appear as viable

The organic farming movement is still very new to Cambodia although in neighbouring
Southeast Asian countries it has already reached the take-off stage. As conventional farm
production is geared mainly towards cash-crop production with heavy reliance on agro-
chemicals, small-scale farmers are exposed to market instability and health hazards.

Cambodian consumers are largely unfamiliar with organic products, but they are
concerned about the uncontrolled use of agricultural chemical inputs. Under contract
farming schemes, farmers become increasingly dependent on production factors external
to the community, and on distant markets that are not obliged to consider the needs of
farmers. For some producers, contract farming systems worked well in the short term, but
in many cases the production and market risks were high, and many farmers became

In reality, in Cambodia there are many agricultural operations which can be classed as
organic; many Cambodian farmers have never used any chemical fertilizers or pesticides,
and so they are organic by default, using compost, botanical pesticides etc. However, it is
difficult to quantify their extent as they operate outside the certification and formal
market. Such schemes usually are rainfed and do not use chemical fertilizers. However,
there is usually limited protection of the land parcels from external sources of pollution
e.g. from neighbouring conventional farms and water courses.

Organic produce is commonly consumed and is sold locally at the same prices as their
conventional counterparts. Organic produce grown in Cambodia include rice, vegetables,
mangoes, banana, pineapple, coconut, palm oil, soybean, mung bean, maize, sweet potato,
ground nut, sesame, cattle, chicken, black pepper, and freshwater fish. Some provinces
specialize in specific produce, where geographical indicators may be appropriate in future,
for example black pepper from Komport Province, organic rice from Tmorkol District,
Battambang Province, orange in Banan District, Battambang Province, and natural palm
sugar in Kompong Speu Province.

2. Market development
Increasing and unregulated use of agrochemicals as well as experiences from other
countries prompted farmers and NGO’s to focus on limited or non-chemical agriculture
(eg. CEDAC, Srer Khmer, IPM programme).

Organic produce grown in Cambodia include rice, cashew, palm-sugar, pepper,

vegetables. This is sold mostly as fresh produce, although some is also processed.
CEDAC and key companies such as CBCL, Confirel are engaged in developing the

In the domestic market a range of produce is available in supermarkets such as Lucky,

Paragon, Pencil) and other shops. Deliveries are also made directly to major hotels
(Cambodiana) and restaurants (Mith Samlanh).

There is increasing interest in the export market from a number of overseas importers,
(e.g. Trading, Rapunzel, Rickmers for rice). Confirel exports mainly to France and Lotus
to the US.

In 2005 fully certified organic rice was harvested for the second time. Going organic
contributed to food security and an improved health situation (no chemical residues in the
staple food, as well as the elimination of health hazards arising from the often incorrect
use of pesticides) for many farmers. The cooperatives in Kampot and Kompong Thom
were able to sell around 250 tons of conversion and organic rice for a price premium
between 10 to 20 percent higher compared to the conventional rice price. This has
generated a high income for the participating farmers.

To increase general awareness about the benefits and availability of organic rice in
Cambodia, a national brand- SARAVAN- was established. Currently two wholesalers
and seven retailers are involved in trading the SARAVAN rice in Phnom Penh, Siem
Reap, Kampot and Kompong Thom. Furthermore, one exporter is currently in contact
with four European importers to export Cambodian organic rice for the first time ever.
Organic agriculture is recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery
(MAFF) and the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) as a potential niche in which Cambodia
can have a definite comparative advantage over its competitors.

3. Certification

Internal Control System (ICS) inspectors were elected by the board and trained through
the technical assistants. The ICS inspection took place after transplanting in September
2005. It was mainly funded by German Technical Cooperation Agency (GZT) with a
small contribution by farmers of 700 riels (1USD= 4,000 riels) per farmer. Data entry
was done by GTZ technical assistance and student volunteers. The external inspection
was mainly funded through a grant from the German Development Service, and some
local costs were also covered by GTZ.

4. Organic Agricultural Policy

The government’s agricultural policy is to improve agricultural productivity and

diversification, thereby enabling the agricultural sector to serve as a dynamic driving
force for economic growth and poverty reduction. Thus the Royal Government plans to
invest substantially in domestic resources to promote agricultural intensification and
diversification in order to bolster economic growth, create employment and enhance rural
incomes, thus contributing to nutritional improvement, food security and growth in
agricultural exports. In this regard, shifting the direction from "expansionary" or
"extensive" agriculture to "deepening" or "intensive" agriculture, especially by increasing
yields through intensification on existing land, has become the Royal Government’s top

The Royal Government plans to create an environment conductive to private sector

participation in the agricultural sector enterprises by accelerating land distribution and
issuance of secure land titles within the framework of social concessions, particularly in
the rural areas. The government will also initiate the development of an origination
system, further enhancing water quality for communities as well as reducing vulnerability
to natural disasters. To increase agricultural productivity, the Royal Government will
place more emphasis on expanding support services such as agricultural research and
extension, development of markets for agricultural produce, distribution of inputs, seeds,
fertilizers and increased access to rural credit. The Royal Government will accord special
priority on direct public investment and will also encourage private investment in
agriculture to increase agricultural production, while ensuring the quality of Cambodian
agricultural produce is improved to comply with international standards.

Although Cambodia has not yet established a policy on organic agriculture, a number of
policy measures help to promote the sector:-
• National Poverty Reduction Strategy (NPRS) 2003-2005
• Rectangular Strategy (RS) 2004-2008
o National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2006-2010 (continue to
promote export markets for niche products, especially organic farm
• Agricultural Sector Strategies Development Plan (ASDP) 2006-2010
• Improve and promote rice and other crops intensification by using ICM, IPM and
System Rice Intensification (SRI) techniques.

On the legislative side, a number of measures are relevant:

• Sub-decree 69 (1998) on Management of Agricultural Materials and MAFF
Circular No. 345 (2002) banned GMOs

• Organic agriculture is actively promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry
and Fisheries (MAFF) and the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) in its National
Export Strategy.
• In 2006 MAFF sent a letter to the Ministry of Information, prohibiting chemical
agriculture advertisements in the mass media (TV, radio, and newspapers).

MAFF is considering alternatives to development of agricultural land under subsistence

farming. Before progressing to fully organic systems, MAFF aims first to develop its SRI
strategy. The SRI seeks to increase rice production through improved practices for plant,
water, soil and nutrient management. This approach is expected to help farmers not only
to increase yields and maintain economic benefits but also to maintain environmental

Organic SRI farmers are helped to organize into at least 250 village-based producer
groups; these groups are linked together in 25-30 inter-village clusters and a district
network. Representative of producer groups and the network receive training on
marketing, organic SRI methods and internal control system.

Facilitating the process of establishment of agreement between NAP and producer groups
and networks on production and marketing plan.

In 2006, approximately 4901 households in Kampot and 9540 households in Kompong

Thom province applied SRI practices with technical support and funding from GTZ and
the Rural Development Programme (RDP). Following the SRI programme, MAFF will
progress to develop fully organic agriculture, focussing particularly on organic rice
systems. MAFF will prioritize sustainable development objectives in the agricultural
sector, focusing not only on the narrow economic returns to farmers, but also on the
wider impacts of agricultural activity on health, poverty reduction, and the environment.

5. Organization of the organic sector

The sector is in its early stages of development, and the overall level of organization is
still relatively limited. Nevertheless, since 2004 several NGOs (e.g. CEDAC, Srer Khmer)
set up their own organic standards, and around 960 farmers are presently organized into
cooperatives in the provinces of Kampot and Kompong Thom. These farmers cooperate
with similar organic initiatives in the provinces of Pursat and Battambang, and in
December 2005 these groups joined together to create the Cambodian Organic
Agriculture Organization (COrAA).

COrAA’s aim is to promote and facilitate the organic agriculture movement in

Cambodia. COrAA includes NGOs, companies and government agencies (MAFF and
MoC). COrAA has since developed Organic and Chemical-Free standards, in
anticipation that this will facilitate entry of more companies into the Cambodian market
under these standards.

NGO’s active in organic agriculture have further helped to promote development of
domestic markets (e.g. CEDAC, Srer Khmer, PUAC, the IPM program, and
HURREDO). From 2003 to 2005, CEDAC operated a pilot marketing support project,
supported mainly by Oxfam UK and Oxfam America, GTZ Rural Development
Programme (RDP) and Germany’s Senior Experten Service (SES).

Since 2003 GTZ-RDP, with support from Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst (DED)

Cambodia and MoC introduced a new programme aiming at export of organic produce,
with rice as its first priority commodity. Several donors/projects later joined this
programme, including DANIDA, OXFAM, and German Agro Action.

The project aims at enabling 4,000 farmers from 250 villages to gain extra income
through premiums paid by consumers and the share of the gross margin of the marketing
operation. The project also hopes to improve consumers’ access to organic produce and
strengthen social cooperation between farmers and farmers, and farmers and consumers.
The project also aims to stimulate wider interest amongst farmers in promoting and using
organic SRI methods. The project expects to generate 750 tons during 2006/07, 1500 tons
during 2007/2008, increasing in 2008/2009 to 2,000 tons. The community will gain more
than 200 million riel in extra income within 3 years. Around 4,000 ha of rice field have
already been converted to organic SRI.

From January 2006, CEDAC has operated a 3 year organic rice marketing project, known
as the Natural Agri-Product (NAP). NAP purchases paddy directly from organic producer
cooperatives. NAP is responsible for managing the storage and milling of paddy, and for
selling milled rice to consumers in Phnom Penh and other urban areas through its own
shop and through retailer networks. The project also implements public awareness and
educational activities related to the project and organic SRI rice products (e.g. consumer
and farmer meetings, including field visits to farmers fields by consumers).

5.1. Regulatory framework

There are at present no regulations relating to organic agriculture in Cambodia. The only
applicable regulation is the Food Safety of Agricultural Products Act, Number 334 PRK-
MAFF, 07 August, 2007. This regulation, prepared by Department of Agro-industry,
MAFF, lays down:
• Principles and management of food safety in agricultural production,
• Principles and management of food safety in primary processing, and
• Management and control of food derived from agricultural products.

In addition, the Department of Agro-industry has drafted two regulations: Standard of

Agriculture Products; and Certification and Cambodian Law on Organic Agriculture.
These drafted laws have been submitted to MAFF and the Royal Government of
Cambodia and await approval.

The Standard of Agriculture Product and Certification will regulate:

• Standards of agricultural products,
• Labelling, and
• Certification

The Cambodian Law on Organic Agriculture will stipulate:

• Requirement for establishing organic agriculture,
• Procedure for registration of producers and products from organic
• Surveillance, and
• Penalty provisions.

6. Supporting Structures
The German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) and RDP have lent their support to
the organic rice sector along the entire value chain. Support measures at the production
stage include:
• provision of seed for organic rice and green manure under a pay-back scheme;
• technical training and advice on cultivation methods;
• organizational and business training and advice on formation and operation of
farmer cooperatives, including the establishment of an internal control system;
• financial support for international organic certification.

Furthermore, the value chain GTZ and RDP continue to support farmers to add value to
their product through village-based processing and local marketing. Support measures
• provision of four cooperative rice mills;
• technical training on post-harvest handling and milling techniques;
• business training on marketing and finances;
• linking farmers to domestic wholesalers and retailers through fairs and on-site
• supporting the establishment of a brand printed material, radio and TV sport as
well as a special events.

In order to facilitate export quality processing and exporting, GTZ and RDP cooperate to
provide assistance to interested processors and exporters.

7. Lessons learnt
To further develop organic agriculture in Cambodia, general awareness needs to be raised
and access to organic seeds and technical training needs to be improved. This requires
further investments in information provision, research in regarding to organic farming

systems in Cambodia and the establishment of a specific extension service. As organic
farmers are also facing the same market inefficiencies as conventional farmers, generally
improving the business environment and investment climate at the local as well as
national level, are likewise essential. The latter would also stimulate investment in the
agro-industry sector, which traditionally is the major link between farmers and markets
and the driving force for agricultural growth.

In conclusion, the Royal Government of Cambodia has recently become interested in

organic farming with the market expansion for promoting sustainable agriculture.
Awareness of organic farming could be enhanced through appropriate research and
extension programs as well as education, training and promotion activities.

Public-private sector partnerships are also urgently needed if the rapid growth of organic
agriculture in the country is to be sustained, along with continuing international
assistance in the form of technical and financial aid for strategic initiatives, networking
and collaboration with stakeholders in organic and fair trade movements, and to stimulate
market access through increased private sector engagement.