On-farm Food Safety in Horticulture in Cambodia: The Case of Vegetable Farming
Despite being an agrarian economy, Cambodia imported vegetables approximately 70 percent of the total domestic consumption because the commercialized vegetable farming in Cambodia is inadequate, let alone the commercial investment in the export-based horticulture (USAID, 2015). Vegetable farming accounts for only around 2 percent of the temporary crop area in the country and the local supply of vegetables is so seasonal and limited that consumers turn to the products imported from Vietnam and Thailand to fill out the domestic supply shortfall. Hence, there is a great potential for Cambodia to become less reliant on the imports by expanding domestic supply of vegetables, which is expected to significantly improve rural farm incomes, food safety and nutrition.
The previous studies suggest that the competitiveness of Cambodia’s vegetable subsector would be greatly enhanced if Cambodia’s vegetable farmers become increasingly able to comply with the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) (USAID, 2015; Nuppun, 2015). For ASEAN markets, this standard is a package of 84 farming practices, ranging from production, harvest and post-harvest handling. It ensures the quality and safety of agricultural produce, including vegetables. Given the current capacity of Cambodian farmers, adopting all of the practices is really challenging. Thus, the feasible strategy for our vegetable subsector is to focus on what we can or could do better than either Vietnam or Thailand by augmenting the import substitution potential. For instance, ensuring the safety of the local vegetables along with sufficient supply can increase the domestic demand, which now is significantly lower than the demand for the imported ones.
Due to the importance of improving on-farm food safety in vegetable production, conducting research studies about this area can be of significant policy input for the agricultural development in Cambodia. However, previous research studies on this subsector in Cambodia have not been very extensive. Most of the available studies for Cambodia have yet to specifically address the issues of on-farm food safety in vegetable subsector (e.g. Nuppun, 2015; USAID, 2015; CPS, 2016). Additionally, none of the previous studies has looked at this issue by comparing Cambodia’s situation to one of that of its neighbours (i.e. Vietnam or Thailand) – the main source of the vegetable supply in Cambodia. Thus, it is worth filling out this gap.
The good farming practices in the vegetable production in this study is limited to the ones regarding pesticide uses, which are the determining factors of on-farm food safety for the vegetables. Aiming at contributing to the advancement of strategies/ and policies concerning to horticulture (i.e. vegetable), and on-farm food safety issues, this study will use empirical evidence-based analysis to understand and document the current practices of pesticide application in Cambodia’s vegetable production, and compare it with a main vegetable supplier. More specifically, this study addresses three important questions. First, it intends to document the extent to which vegetable farming households in Cambodia comply with the good practices of pesticide application. Second, this study will empirically examine whether or not the on-farm food safety in Cambodia’s vegetable farming is better than that of Vietnam – one of the main vegetable suppliers. Finally, it will identify the key constraints to promoting on-farm food safety in Cambodia’s vegetable subsector.