By Soy Sophea
Cambodian farmers and agricultural officials have noted that the number of beef producers in Cambodia appears to have declined since Cambodian farmers changed their agricultural practices with the introduction of machinery. These developments have been identified as factors that could push the price of beef higher.
Chey Sambo, a 45-year-old widower living in Krakor district, Pursat province, who owns10 hectares of agricultural land, prefers to use tractors to do the otherwise backbreaking work of plowing.
Sambo said last year, he had ten cows to help bring in the harvest. Feeding cows was a time consuming business, one that kept his sons busy throughout the day looking for suitable pasture. Having sold six of them, his costs in terms of labor and feed have been much reduced. Indeed, he made more money selling the animals for beef, but their loss to the human food chain means he must invest the money and more in updating his farm.
A 41-year-old farmer Mon Much living in Kean Svay district, Kandal province, also found it hard to raise his 27 head of cattle in recent years. He explained that in recent years, feeding the beasts was simply a matter of letting them graze the stubble of harvested paddy fields. However, development of the fields around his farm over the last two years has put a stop to this. Now, the price of buying and transporting hay and other feedstuffs makes a considerable addition to his expenses.
He said that he had sold 20 oxen early this year in order to reduce feeding costs, finance a new five hectare corn plantation and buy new farming machinery.
An employee at a local farming machinery distributor reported increased sales as farmers turn away from the cow to mechanical cultivator as a means of plowing land. “Farmers are happy with their cleaner, more efficient machines,” she said. “They no longer have to worry about finding hay. If you fill it up with diesel, it goes,” she added.
Nevertheless, the bill for the farmer’s convenience must be paid. Meng Srey, a beef seller at Kandal market in Phnom Penh, said beef now is 22,000 riel per kilogram, compared to 19,000 riel in December last year.
She reported difficulties with her trade as customers reduced their consumption of the meet. She added that if the price continued to increase, the poor would not be able to afford beef.
However, Chan Tong Yves, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said his ministry encouraged farmers to raise cows to maintain a balanced agricultural sector and urged farmers not to introduce artificial strains in the beef market.
The Secretary of State understood that although farmers enjoyed the benefits of using machinery, they should also pay attention to market forces and at least try not to exacerbate the current inflationary situation.