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as an abundant crop leads brokers to drop the prices they offer farmers
PHNOM PENH--The price of cabbage has dropped so low this month that some Cambodian farmers are facing bankruptcy.
According to farmers in Kampong Cham and Battambang provinces, brokers in some areas have reduced prices to 1,000 riels to 1,500 riels ($0.25 to $0.37) per kilogram.
Since growing conditions are favorable for cabbage in December and January, many farmers turned to cabbage in December 2020 as it is easy to grow and can be harvested within weeks.
But as Pov Rati, a farmer of Koh Sotin District in Kampong Cham Province, said on Jan. 20, prices dropped as low as 1,300 to 1,500 riels ($0.32 to $0.37) per kilogram and at times there has been no buyer. Cabbage used to sell for 3,500 to 5,000 riels ($0.86 to $1.23), he said.
As Rati explained, prices are set by brokers—most farmers in her area deal directly with brokers as they are not members of farmer groups or NGOs as this usually entails meeting requirements to grow products, he said.
Farmers in Battambang Province face a similar situation. According to Loam Sopheara, president of the Agricultural Association of Banan District in Battambang Province, the highest price a farmer can obtain these days is 2,000 riels ($0.49) per kilogram.
"Most farmers here grow the same vegetables, especially cabbage, and this season is the season of an abundance of cabbage, but the selling price is only 2,000 riels per kilogram," she said.
Chhim Vachira, director of the Battambang Provincial Department of Agriculture, said the price of leafy vegetables range from 1,000 to 1,500 riels ($0.25 to $0.37) per kilogram, but farmers who are members of a group or project can obtain 2,000 to 3,000 riels ($0.49 to $0.74) per kilogram.
While the price is still not good, farmers accept it because they understand the current market situation, he said. "In December and January, it's time for the cabbage harvest, which leads prices to be only 1,000 to 1,500 riels ($0.25 to $0.37) per kilogram in Battambang Province," he said.
Today’s farmers must study the market before investing into a produce, experts say
According to Srey Vuthy, spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the higher the yield, the lower the price. In order to solve this problem, it is necessary to form farmers’ groups, agricultural communities, and obtain agricultural production contracts, he said.
The Ministry of Agriculture has developed the mobile CAMAgriMarket application to give farmers access to market information, and enable sellers and buyers to easily communicate, Vuthy said. The ministry is urging farmers to use that app to help them access agriculture markets, he said.
Agriculture expert Yang Saing Koma of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) said that Cambodia does not yet have a proper management system to help farmers grow different vegetables according to seasons to obtain competitive prices.
In the meantime, farmers grow vegetables without market study or looking into market demand, using traditional farming methods, he said.
"Farmers still grow vegetables the traditional way and on a seasonal [basis], which means some seasons they grow a lot and some seasons less,” Koma said. “Farming is still limited and not yet on a regular basis, and so supply is not in line with demand.”
Vorn Vonn, who grows cabbage in Kampong Thom Province, admits that he did not study the market before growing cabbage: Cabbage seemed a good idea, he said.
Now, he can only get 1,500 riels ($0.37) per kilogram as there is a large supply of cabbages on the market right now, he said.
Vonn added that he will be more careful and check the market next time.