Friday, July 14, 2017

Cambodia: Increasing farmers’ income with rice straw

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Sustainable rice straw management practices in Cambodia can enhance using the byproduct to significantly increase farmers’ income. On 5-6 July, this was examined during a roundtable meeting and workshop on building potential business models for the rice straw supply chain in the country.

The event was held at the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA) under the auspices of the Rice Straw Management Project of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Prof. Ngo Bunthan, RUA rector, highlighted the importance of mechanizing agriculture for Cambodia and the need to manage rice straw better.”We need to provide farmers with value-adding opportunities and better utilization of rice straw, which could significantly increase their incomes,” he told the participants that included key stakeholders, value chain actors, academe, and government agencies.

The participants were introduced to existing models for rice straw and then worked to identify the key markets and better business models. Upgrading the rice straw value chain and then identifying markets with the greatest potential for rice straw were cited as necessary to transform the straw into a sustainably managed and value-adding byproduct.

Rice experts from research institutions, the public and the private sectors, and farmer groups assessed current end-markets for rice straw and identified the actors, service providers, and institutions involved in rice straw value chains in Cambodia. They also identified influencing factors and future market prospects.

To provide additional background, Martin Gummert, IRRI senior scientist on postharvest and mechanization, highlighted the long history of the IRRI-Cambodia partnership in capacity building and working on mechanization such as the recent IRRI-ADB (Asian Development Bank) postharvest project. ”The first stage of modernizing traditional agriculture usually involves mechanization, basically bringing more power into the field to address labor shortages and high operating costs,” he said. “The reduction of postharvest losses and improving grain quality becomes important once a surplus in production is achieved.”

Dr. Pyseth Meas, director for International Cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, pointed out the rapid developments of advanced rice straw management practices in Vietnam as lessons learned that can be adapted in Cambodia.

For example, Gummert presented the sustainable benefits of mechanized collection of rice straw in Vietnam as a key solution to eliminate the bottleneck to enable further processing and/or uses such as mushroom production and cattle feed. A dairy company in Vietnam (TH True Milk) is using rice straw in its cattle feed, which has enabled the company to reduce the cost of biomass feed from USD 400/ton to 150/ton. As a result, the demand of the company for rice straw is ten times greater than the available supply from rice straw traders in the Mekong Delta.

This generated interest from the Cambodian private sector because they might be able to capture part of this rice straw market in Vietnam. Mr. Chhim Ratana, a participant from Svay Rieng who owns four straw balers, said, “We can invest more in balers if the rice straw from Cambodia will meet the quality requirements and can be purchased by the Vietnamese company.”

So, the workshop was concluded by planning the next steps for the project to facilitate linkages between potential rice straw market actors in Vietnam with the existing and potential new rice straw collectors and processors in Cambodia.

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