Australia Awards John Allwright Fellow researches post-harvest technologies to help Cambodian vegetable farmers
On a recent visit to Cambodia, one of our team recognised a young woman in the café where we had stopped for an essential coffee recharge.
We struck up a conversation with Thida (Sambath Sonnthida) and she started talking passionately about her experiences as a John Allwright Fellow with ACIAR, which was a great surprise to us.
Here is her story:
“Most of the year, Cambodia’s own vegetable production is insufficient to meet local consumer demand. To overcome this shortage, Cambodia imports 40-60% of its vegetables from neighbouring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand.
However, during the annual peak harvest season from February to March there is often an oversupply of locally produced vegetables.
Farmers often have a difficult choice to make of either not harvesting their vegetables, or selling them at a very low price. Product losses are also high, with farmers and other actors in the chain having limited knowledge on how to best manage their crops postharvest. Some postharvest technologies (such as cool storage) are also quite costly.
Simple postharvest technologies can offer an alternative for countries like Cambodia.
For example, Modified Atmosphere Package technology has the potential to maintain product quality and shelf life. In Australia, results conducted under Cambodian- simulated conditions have provided some benefit.
The work I am currently undertaking in Cambodia will test this technology in the field, to ensure that the lab-based results do indeed translate to on-farm conditions. I will look at whether or not Modified Atmosphere Package technology enables farmers to hold mature green tomatoes on their farms for a period, to enable them to sell the crop at a later date.
The objective of this research is to evaluate how effective this technology is under Cambodian conditions in delaying the ripening process of mature green tomatoes and maintaining their quality. 1-Methylcyclopropene fumigation, the ethylene inhibitor (inhibiting ripening and/or senescence) is also being tested in combination with Modified Atmosphere Package technology, for its effect in retaining the quality and prolonging the shelf life of pak choy and choy sum at high-end levels in Phnom Penh City and Siem Reap province. “
It’s fascinating work, Thida. We look forward to hearing about the outcomes, hopefully over another coffee in Phnom Penh!