Oranges struggle with disease

Mak Samoeurn plucks ripe oranges from his orange plantation in Battambang province. Heng Chivoan

Cheng Sokhorng, The Phnom Penh Post
Fri, 10 February 2017

Orange farmer Say Samoeurth has been battling an invisible foe. He rarely sees his adversary, a tiny insect known as the Asian citrus psyllid, but wherever it goes this winged pest leaves behind a trail of destruction.

Most of the 1,000 orange trees that Samoeurth planted on his 2-hectare farm have been affected, with a bacteria transmitted by the sap-sucking insect stunting their growth and causing their leaves to turn colour and fall off. Some of defoliated trees still bear fruit, but its green, mottled appearance and bitter flavour prevents its sale in the market.

Samoeurth, who has been growing oranges on his land since 1996, said he first learned of the link between the psyllid and “citrus greening disease” from government agriculture officials. But no solutions were offered, and their advice was simply to cut down the orchard and plant something else.

Having invested his life savings into his orchard, the 52-year-old citrus farmer is reluctant to give up. Instead, he has sunk more money into his dying farm, uprooting the infected trees and transplanting new ones. (more…)

Posted on: February 9, 2017 8:41 pm

The villages between life and death

In Thmor San village, young residents live, eat and play atop tombstones. Eli Lillis

Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon and Kong Meta
The Phnom Penh Post, Fri, 18 November 2016

Walking through the narrow alleyways of Trea village, in the capital’s Meanchey district, it is nearly impossible to tell that it once held a large Chinese cemetery. The last trace is the temple in which bodies were stored between death and burial.

The temple is now the home of Nob Vann Darith and his family, who took up residence in 1992. Before, it was used as the village administrative office. “The staff experienced being haunted there,” says village chief Pho Vanna, though he officially attributes the move to fears that the structure might collapse.

“I believe in ghosts, but so far as I’ve lived here, it is not a problem. I used to hear that people did not dare walk by here for fear of being haunted,” says Darith, who works as an electrician.

He attributes his amiable relationship to the spirit world to his parents, who called upon the services of a Chinese medium when they moved in. So that the ghosts would accept the intrusion, he recommended the family make regular offerings – a spiritual rent of sorts.

“We sacrifice a chicken, pouring out its blood; we slice its neck and then apply the blood to our wooden shrine, and we offer six types of fruits, and also Chinese [fortune] paper,” Darith says.

While Darith is ethnically Khmer, he says he makes a point of offering both Khmer and Chinese prayers, especially during Chinese New Year and Ching Ming, the tomb-sweeping festival. “We are living at their house, so we pray to ask for harmony,” he explains.  (more…)

Posted on: November 17, 2016 8:54 pm

Mango producers struggle to meet Korean standards

A farmer collects harvested mangoes in Kandal province in 2013. Heng Chivoan

Cheng Sokhorng, The Phnom Penh Post
Fri, 18 November 2016

It has been nearly a year since the government signed a memorandum of understanding with South Korea that aimed to put Cambodian mangoes on the shelves of supermarkets in Seoul, yet local producers say there is little sign of any movement.

According to In Chayvan, president of the Kampong Speu Mango Association, the potentially lucrative trade agreement signed last December has stalled on South Korea’s stringent sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations, which local producers are unable to comply with.

“Firstly, we are farmers, so we were happy to hear that the government had inked this agreement, but when we later found out about South Korea’s requirements, we lost hope,” he said yesterday.

“South Korea is focused on food safety, which is the main barrier for us as we cannot afford the technology required to kill all the bacteria on our mangoes,” he explained.

According to Chayvan, Cambodia’s top-tiered keo romeat mangoes currently fetch between 1,000 and 2,000 riel per kilo here, but could sell for considerably more if shipped to South Korea. Yet it could be several years before Cambodia has a processing plant that can treat the mangoes with heated water, bringing bacteria counts to within acceptable levels.

Chayvan said Cambodian mango growers would be better off focusing their efforts on securing export contracts for China, and upping shipments to the Thai and Vietnamese markets. He said these countries have less stringent SPS regulations, while Thailand and Vietnam are ready to bend the rules on SPS and certificates of origin when their domestic production is insufficient to meet demand. (more…)

Posted on: November 17, 2016 8:46 pm

Keep a cool mind

When the weather is hot, keep a cool mind. When the weather is cold, keep a warm heart. ~Ajahn Brahm

ទិដ្ឋភាពពលរដ្ឋរស់នៅលើទឹក ក្នុងឃុំពាមបាង ស្រុកស្ទោង ខេត្តកំពង់ធំ កាលពីថ្ងៃទី១ ខែឧសភា ឆ្នាំ២០១៦។ RFA/Saut Sokprathna

Posted on: September 10, 2016 10:50 pm