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Cambodia: Farmers struggle to repay micro-finance loan debt as agriculture products' values are affected by COVID-19 pandemic

"Farmers struggle to repay debt as pandemic wreaks havoc on agricultural costs", 30 July 2021

With the pandemic continuing to impact production costs, smallholder farmers say they are struggling to repay debt to banks and microfinance institutions, and pulling their children out of school to make ends meet.

Speaking at the National People Summit on Food System, …, Men Davy, vice president of the Mean Chey community in Svay Rieng province, said many in her community are struggling at every stage of the farming cycle. She cited high production expenses and variable crop prices as key challenges.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, rice could be sold at 1000 riels [per kilo] or higher than this, but now it can be sold around 900 riels to 950 riels only. To survive in this desperate situation, some of us have borrowed loans from the bank to cover the expenses,” she said. “And to be able to pay off the bank debts, some families in my community have decided to let their children drop out of school in order to help them find more income.”

… A recent study by Ponlok Khmer and four other organizations found that about 40 percent of smallholder farmers are indebted to banks and microfinance. The research was based on interviews with 97 farmers in six provinces.

… “Farmers fall into debt because they [need to] cover higher production costs,” he said. “The government does not pay enough attention to help farmers in finding markets and protecting local agricultural products.”

… Experts say that insufficient infrastructure, human resources, and government support have impacted farmers’ ability to earn a living wage…