Home > Local News > Rice Experts See Better Prospects in New Seeds

Rice Experts See Better Prospects in New Seeds

For five years now, Yin Narong has used a new method to plant rice.
Instead of planting from the seeds of the previous year’s harvest, he
buys new seeds from a local company.
With more than 2.7 million hectares of cultivatable land, agriculture
experts hope new methods and seeds can help the country reach a goal of
1 million tons of annual rice export by 2015. Photo AP
The difference, he said in an interview, has been a boost in yield of 200 kilograms of rice each harvest on one-fifth a hectare.
“Now with pure seeds we get up to 900 kilograms,” the 52-year-old
farmer in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district said. He also uses less seeds,
about 15 kilograms with the new method compared to 20 kilograms with
the old.
A relatively low number of farmers like Yin Narong are using the
new-seed method. But traditional habits persist, preventing the country
from reaching its rice potential, agricultural economists say.
 “Our farmers have small plots of land, so they are not very interested in the company’s seeds.”
Many farmers still use rice seeds from the previous harvest to
replant their paddies, instead of buying prime, new seeds from
companies. Agricultural experts say the use of “pure” seeds can boost
yields up to 20 percent.
“It is a challenge for Cambodia as the farmers still use their seeds
saved for generations,” Nov Seiha, research manager for the Economic
Institute of Cambodia, said. “Sometimes, the genes of the seeds have
already died out.”
The old practice means that Cambodians harvest less rice per hectare than their regional neighbors.
A typical Cambodia harvest yields 2.6 tons per hectares, compared to
2.8 tons in Thailand, 3.5 tons in Laos and 4.9 tons in Vietnam,
according to government statistics.
With more than 2.7 million hectares of cultivatable land,
agriculture experts hope new methods and seeds can help the country
reach a goal of 1 million tons of annual rice export by 2015.
The rice seed industry, however, remains in a nascent stage. Cambodia has only one seed company. By comparison, Thailand has 85.
Cambodia’s company, Aquip Seed Co., Ltd., sells 2,600 tons or rice
seeds annually to about 160,000 households, according to research by
the Cambodian Economic Institute. In a report, the institute criticized
the domestic seed sector as “backward” and “afraid to modernize.”
The Ministry of Agriculture, which is charged in part with improving the sector, owns 49 percent of the company.
But company officials insist they are not interested in a monopoly.
“We need newcomers to boost demand in our country,” said Kong
Vitank, chief executive of the company. “Then it also opens equal
competition in the seed business.”
Ouk Makara, director of the ministry’s Cambodian Agricultural
Research and Development Institute, said the ministry has “no
authority” to maintain a monopoly.
“Our farmers have small plots of land, so they are not very interested in the company’s seeds,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government continues its efforts to improve the rice
trade. It has introduced 10 varieties of rice paddy for farmers to grow
this season, including rice that is popular in foreign markets.
Yong Saingkoma, resident of the Cambodian Center for Study and
Development in Agriculture, said if farmers do not want to buy new
seeds each season, they can use their own seeds more effectively by
choosing the right ones to plant.
“The starting point is to make sure farmers across the country know
how to purify their seeds for the next growing seasons,” he said
Source: RFA
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Categories: Local News
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