The First National Conference on Organic Rice Mill Cooperatives
CEDAC, in cooperation with Farmer and Nature Net (FNN), organized the First National Conference on Organic Rice Mill Cooperatives on January 3-4, 2013 at the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center (CJCC), in Phnom Penh. 300 representatives from organic rice producer groups and farmer savings associations in 60 districts across 13 provinces attended the conference.
The objectives of the conference were to:
• Present the progress of rice mill cooperatives in Cambodia
• Announce the districts/communities that will be given grants for the construction of rice mill machines in 2013
• Prepare a strategic plan to increase rice mill cooperative members in 2013
During the conference, the three winning districts were announced and awarded certificates. These districts were Kamchaymear and Sithor Kandal district of Prey Veng province and Tramkok district of Takeo province. Each district will receive 1000 million riel (about $250,000 USD) in 2013 to develop rice mill cooperatives and fun milling machine construction, to be completed late this year.
In his speech, CEDAC president Dr. Yang Saing Koma remarked that the main problems that Cambodian rice farmer face is the low prices obtained from paddy rice during harvest time, which is further amplified by the need to buy milled rice at higher prices during planting time. Farmers are losing money every year due to these factors, making family farm enterprises less profitable and sustainable. “Through a recent study, we have learned that we lose 600 riel for every kilogram of paddy rice we sell. If we sell 100 tonnes of paddy rice in a village, we will lose 600 million riel,” Dr. Koma said. “Now, CEDAC will support farmers to change from selling paddy to selling milled rice all year-round to get higher prices and other value added benefits through the development of rice mill cooperatives and profitable organic rice farming,” he added.
The establishment of rice mills in these districts is aimed at regaining the potential within the districts, especially in regard to the production of organic rice. Dr. Koma said that in 2013, CEDAC will focus on promoting 3 key ideas to make rice farmers become more prosperous: (1) Growing fragrant rice to sell by using organic SRI methods, (2) selling milled rice instead of paddy, and (3) allocating portions of income earned from selling milled rice to invest in rice mill cooperatives.
Son Koun Thor, Chairman & CEO of the Rural Development Bank (RDB), said that the bank would give more loans to communities. “CEDAC provides 1,000 million riel ($250.000), but my bank will help when they are [short of money],” he said.
Cambodia has an advantage over neighboring countries with organic rice farming. CEDAC plans to develop Cambodia to become the world leader in producing and supplying high quality organic rice, especially organic fragrant rice, by 2022.
At the end of the conference, all representatives from organic rice producer groups and farmer savings associations committed to increasing both rice mill cooperative members and savings capital so that they could become next year’s winner of the rice mill cooperatives investment fund.