Cambodian Seed Sector (2015/16)

(Excerpt from Seed Sector Evaluation Report (EFAP – AF))

There have been numerous initiatives, projects, programs and reports into the seed sector in Cambodia over the years(1, 2, 3). Central to these has been, and is, the establishment of a comprehensive seed policy and development of regulations to allow the implementation of the national seed law, all of which is reported to come into effect in 2017. Unlike other countries recovering from years of war and suppression, Cambodia has no history of a formal and regulated seed sector. As such, the establishment and development of a formal seed sector has been started from scratch, which in itself offers unique challenges and opportunities. Based on available data the population of Cambodia are predominantly farmers with 85% being rice farmers (4). Traditional experience is that there are two seasons, wet and dry, and that over 2.3 million hectares of land is cultivated during the wet season, which traditionally extends from May to the end of November, while 700,000 hectares is cultivated during the dry season. In the past farmers have been reported to grow their traditional varieties, which are day length sensitive, over a five to six month period. More recently, at least the last 10 to 15 years, many farmers have utilized varieties with shorter cropping periods of 100 – 120 days. These varieties are not day length sensitive, provide a higher yield and are preferred for export based on their grain type and quality. Being able to grow varieties with shorter cropping periods has allowed many farmers to sow two consecutive crops during the wet season (Figure 1). Additionally, these same varieties are more suitable for cultivation during the dry season in areas where there is access to irrigation. This change in cultivation has been reflected in the method of planting, traditionally being transplanting and now broadcasting of germinated seeds; harvesting, manual harvesting and now mechanical. Other factors have also influenced this change including insufficient labour, a result of a substantial percentage of family members leaving farms to work in the major city centres.

Figure 1. Rice cropping cycle – Cambodia

  1. Seed Policy and Industry Development in Cambodia, 2010 (GDA and FAO/EU)
  2. Seed Industry Development in Cambodia II: Progress and Recommendations, 2011 (MAFF and FAO/EU)
  3. Cambodia Seed Sector Overview, May 2011 (World Bank)
  4. Cambodia Commodity Intelligence Report, 2010 (USDA)

Quality Rice Seed

Rice farmers in Cambodia have very limited access to quality rice seed with only 36% of the rice seed market considered to be of commercial quality. As such, 64% of all rice cultivated is essentially using paddy. This has numerous impacts, the most important of which being on the quality and yield of the paddy resulting in not just a lower yield but also a lower return for the farmer. This project has clearly demonstrated that in using quality commercial rice seed even the poorest of rice farmers can attain a 50% increase in yield after a period of two years. However, the use of quality commercial rice seed, and the production of a high quality paddy, benefits not just the farmer but also those involved in rice seed production including rice seed companies, seed co-operatives and farmer associations. The consumer aside, this ultimately benefits traders, rice mills and Cambodian exports as they have access to not just more paddy but more quality paddy. However, while this Project has clearly sown the seeds for changing the attitude of farmers toward the use of quality commercial rice seed, there are clear limitations in other sectors of the industry, including a lack of regulations in enforcing the seed law as well as limited access to finance by farmers, seed companies, seed producers and rice mills which are necessary to fully implement a change in the rice sector from using low quality rice seed to quality commercial rice seed.

Quality Vegetable Seed

At 35 kg/capita, vegetable consumption in Cambodia is one of the lowest in the world and little has been done to promote vegetable consumption and cultivation. Further, local production of vegetables cannot meet the local demands. In fulfilling demand for vegetables over 70%, being over 300,000 MT per year or over 800 MT per day (5), are imported mainly from Vietnam (6) but also Thailand. Cultivation of vegetables generally in Cambodia is extremely low and availability in the market is limited. Further, the range of vegetable varieties is also very limited and the quality is generally poor and varies from province to province.

The nutritional value of vegetables to the Project beneficiaries, who are largely food insecure, is high. The Project made available quality vegetable seeds, with some local adaptation, to the Project beneficiaries to cultivate with limited inputs on small land holdings. The vegetables were primarily for household consumption and to demonstrate the benefit of cultivating quality vegetable varieties whose produce could be sold on the open market and thus supplement their income.

In cultivating the quality vegetable seed provided by the Project, the farmers realised the quality of the seed in addition to the improved quality of the produce which could be readily sold in the market. As most farmers had little understanding of vegetable cultivation, the training provided was invaluable. Of particular value was the training of farmers in multiple cropping techniques allowing the farmers to maximise the use of their limited land holdings. Farmers also realised that vegetables could be cultivated as an alternative crop to rice, especially during the dry season as only minimal water was required. This has resulted in the farmers now demanding access to the same quality seed in the future. However, because of the low demand for vegetable seeds in the market, which tend to be varieties which are not adapted to local market demands and some are of low quality, availability is limited. Until this gap in availability changes, farmers’ access to farmer saved seed of quality vegetable varieties is essential in both increasing the consumption of vegetables by groups, such as the Project beneficiaries, and in generating income from the sale of vegetable produce in the market.

Seed Production and Supply of Quality Seed

The Project achieved its objective of producing and supplying quality seed to Project farmers and in providing extension training through PDA officers to enhance the capacity of the farmers in cultivating both rice and vegetables. A summary of the Impacts, Outcomes and Outputs for rice is included in Annex II.

In supplying subsidised quality rice seed to 40,000 farmer households, it reduced the average food insecurity of farmer households from the baseline of 4.7 months in 2011 to 1.2 in 2015. This reduction in food security was a result of improving the yield of paddy by 48% in the first year, being from a baseline average of 1.9 MT in 2011 to 3 MT and then with subsequent increases in 2013 and 2014 by just under 10%.

On average, 27% of the farmer households purchased subsidised vegetable seeds, deriving not just the benefit of vegetables in complementing their nutritional input, but also in realising the additional income from selling the produce on the market.

In cultivating the quality rice seed provided by the Project, the farmers realised the larger yields of the seed in addition to the improved quality of the paddy which, when sold in the market, attracted a higher monetary return for the farmer (Annex XIV). The improved quality of the paddy, in addition to the higher price for the paddy on the market, has resulted in the farmers now demanding access to the same quality seed from the market in the future.

In supplying quality rice seed to the target farmer groups, a total of 3,385 MT of rice varieties IR 66, Chulsa, San Kra Ob and Phka Ruanduol, worth in excess of $2.5 M, were either bought on the open market through the rice seed company AQIP, or produced via contract by Project beneficiary farmers who were members of farmer seed producing associations. Certified seed used by the farmer seed associations, in addition to some of the commercial seed, were produced on GDA rice farms. In contracting the seed production through the farmer seed associations, training support was also provided through GDA who oversaw the seed production. This not only benefitted the farmer for the production of Project rice seed, but also in their ability to produce quality seed in the future, overall enhancing their ability to compete in the market for future rice seed production contracts. Similarly, commercial seed purchased through AQIP was also produced through some of the same farmer associations, in addition to other groups not directly associated with the Project. This directly benefitted the seed-producing farmers who were able to recoup an additional 250 to 300 riel/kg ($0.06 to $0.08/kg) over the standard price for paddy on the market. Additionally, excess rice seed produced by the farmer associations was sold on the open market benefiting the farmers with prices of 700 riel/kg ($0.18/kg) above the price of paddy in the market.

Purchasing commercial seed from AQIP in 2012 and 2014, created an additional demand in the market that would not otherwise have been made, as previously Project farmer beneficiaries did not purchase such high quality seed from the market. This was a win-win situation for the farmer beneficiary, AQIP and their seed-producing farmers.

Table 1. Share of Rice Seed Market in Cambodia (source: AQIP)


Market Share

Seed Companies (~21)


Farmer saved seed


Vietnamese traders and Cambodian rice mills


Government, farmer associations and agricultural cooperatives



Table 2. Value of Rice Seed Market

Poor Quality Seed (@800/kg)

High Quality Seed (@1,500/kg) High Quality Seed (@3,000/kg) Total Value Low Range Total High Range



$32 M $35 M $65 M $65 M $99 M

$82 M


Table 3. Varieties Commonly found in the Cambodian Rice Seed Market



Market Price for Paddy (riel/kg)


Sen Pidor*





Dry season


Phka Ruanduol*
  • – aromatic
  • – 115 – 120 DAS
  • – wet season


Raing Chey*

Sen Kra OB*
  • – aromatic
  • – early wet season 110 DAS
  • – wet season 115 – 120 DAS

Export/ 950

Somaly Early*
  • – aromatic
  • – 115 – 120 DAS
  • – wet season

Export/ 950

Mallis Early*






Phka Kravan


New selections being developed by AQIP


New selections being developed by AQIP
Red Jasmine

Neang Khon

Wet season

  • – dry season
  • – 85 – 90 DAS
  • – not aromatic


Demand from Vietnam. Seed is also provided by Vietnamese traders.

* Main varieties in the market

Table 4. Summary of Cost and Benefits Justifying use of Quality Rice Seed


Cost/kg (riel) Amount  (kg) per ha Total cost of seed Yield/ha (MT) Sale Price/kg Total (million riel) Profit *** (million riel)


Quality Seed


80 240,000 3** 1,200 3.6



Farmer could make at least 1.388 million riel ($347) more by using quality seed.

Typical locally produced seed


160* 128,000 3 700 2.1


* Poor quality seed sowing rates are higher

** Conservative figure for comparative purposes

*** Assuming all other inputs are the same


  1. Seed Policy and Industry Development in Cambodia, 2010 (GDA and FAO/EU)
  2. Seed Industry Development in Cambodia II: Progress and Recommendations, 2011 (MAFF and FAO/EU)
  3. Cambodia Seed Sector Overview, May 2011 (World Bank)
  4. Cambodia Commodity Intelligence Report, 2010 (USDA)
  5. LEO, Cambodia Value Chain Assessment (USAID)
  6. Partners in Research for Development, Summer 2005
  7. Exchange rate Riel:USD 4,100 (Dec 2015)


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