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Economy, agriculture and food security
In 2009, around 4.9 million of the total population was economically active in agriculture, which amounted to 66 percent of the economically active population. Of these 51 percent were women. In 2009, the gross domestic product (GDP) was US$9 872 million of which agriculture accounted for 35 percent.
Cambodian farming systems are largely subsistence oriented and most agricultural activity is based on low input and rainfed production systems centered on paddy rice production. In spite of Cambodia being self-sufficient in rice and having an exportable surplus, the rice-based farming systems are characterized by low income. Furthermore, despite the overall surplus of rice production food insecurity remains a major concern in some parts of the country, especially at administratively disaggregated levels, such as province, district, commune and household, where droughts and floods occur frequently (WFP, 2010).
In 2006, the total harvested rice area was 2.4 million ha, of which 2.1 million ha in the wet season and 0.3 million ha in the dry season (MAFF, 2006).
Cambodia has recently re-entered the world market as a rice exporting nation, following a 30-year hiatus caused by war, political isolation, and a decimated agricultural sector. A resurgence of rice cultivation is occurring across the nation’s vast lowlands, as the rural population expands and as previously abandoned or mined farmland is brought back into production. Recent public statements by government ministers indicate that Cambodia wants to double rice production by 2015 to approximately 15 million tonnes (which is 9.5 million tonnes of milled rice) and export 8 million tonnes (5 million tonnes of milled rice) (USDA, 2010).
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates Cambodian milled rice production in 2009/2010 was a record of more than 4.6 million tonnes, up 2.4 percent from 2008/2009, the fifth consecutive record harvest. Over the past 12 years national rice production has more than doubled, rising 110 percent over the period from a level of 2.2 million tonnes in 1998/1999. The scale of improvement in the past 5 years has been unprecedented, with average milled rice production reaching 4.2 million tonnes or a 74 percent increase over the previous ten-year period, when production had already recovered to pre-war levels. The unusually strong recent growth has been attributed, by both private and public sector officials, to a significant increase in cultivated rice area (26 percent) and in crop yields (40 percent). Government statistics indicate that wet season crop area and production increased by 2.2 percent and 7.2 percent per year respectively, while dry season crop area and production increased by 5.5 percent and 10.5 percent respectively (USDA, 2010).