Future Forum and Angkor Research have conducted in-depth research on the economic impacts of COVID-19.
Because of a critical gap in ground-level data, the two organisations have been looking closely at the people who may have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, such as farmers.
In 2020, the agriculture sector continued to play a significant role in the Cambodian economy, accounting for 22 percent of the kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employing around 3 million people.
Overall farming incomes across the data collected declined significantly by more than 30 percent from January to April.
When asked how COVID-19 is affecting agriculture in Cambodia, Jef Boedt, general manager of Socfin Cambodia, a major player in local economic development, said: “Farmers are facing difficulties in selling their products in markets because of the quarantine measures without specific timelines.
“Prices have declined dramatically including the prices of pepper and other products that affect the incomes of hundreds of families. Cambodian farmers’ organisations are also still depending on external support. Some are in the transitional period to have access to self-financing.”
The first round of data collected also identified the emergence of a trend whereby households are substituting the economic returns of their produce for self-consumption. The data identified a 10 percent increase in consumption-only – subsistence – farming.
“Some farmers may not be able to access the credit they need at the start of the wet season because many farmers depend on credit, especially at the start of the cropping season. The government has offered debt relief or compromise loans with microfinance institutions as part of interventions to support farmers and boost food production in response to the COVID-19 situation,” Boedt went on to say.
Despite the economic and health concerns brought by COVID-19, Prime Minister Hun Sen has touted the agriculture sector as a key source of economic strength to face the pressure of the pandemic.
He wants greater diversity of crops, more agro-processing and more exports so there is less reliance on imports.
This article was first published in Khmer Times. All contents and images are copyright to their respective owners and sources.