Agriculture has been one of the main development sectors in Cambodia as it employs 3 million people, equalling one third of Cambodia’s workforce. According to the World Bank, agriculture is the second most important sector of Cambodia’s economy, contributing 20 percent of Cambodia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), after the garment sector.
Rice is the main Cambodian agricultural product as 28,413 tons of rice were exported to the international market in 2020. However, the agricultural sector in Cambodia remains weak and fragile due to the lack of irrigation systems and technical skills.
It is relatively low compared to the neighbouring countries like Vietnam and Thailand that have exported 5 to 6 million tons of rice annually. Since most Cambodians in rural areas depend on small-scale farming as the main source of income, the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19 has presented great challenges for Cambodian farmers. Hence, it is important to examine the Cambodian farmers’ struggle amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Cambodian farmers are facing economic challenges and risks resulting from border restrictions. Even though the United Nations Development Programs (UNDP) has found that the lives of farmers during COVID-19 seem to be less affected by the health impacts, they have been struggling economically.
They have been at risk of falling into debt since they need to take loans from microfinance institutions for their input in agricultural activities. Even worse, processing the loans may be difficult due to the fact that most of them already defaulted on their debts or loans previously given by banks or microfinance institutions. Thus, it would make it easy for them to fall into the debt trap with their properties being confiscated.
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