During a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen asked China to increase imports of Cambodian sugarcane.
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The officials met in Phnom Penh’s Peace Palace yesterday.
Mr Li is visiting the country to attend the second Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) leaders’ summit, a two-day event that has brought to the kingdom the leaders of the six nations that the Mekong runs through.
Eang Sophalleth, assistant to the Cambodian head of state, told reporters after the meeting that following Mr Hun Sen’s request, Mr Li urged the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce and its Chinese counterpart to start negotiations for the purchase of Cambodian sugarcane.
Hean Vanhan, Cambodia’s director-general of agriculture, told Khmer Times yesterday that the kingdom exports sugarcane solely to the European Union and Vietnam.
“I applaud our premier’s request,” he said. “We need to diversify export markets for sugarcane because we can’t depend solely on the EU. Their market is fragile and they often use our dependency as a weapon to put political pressure on us.”
Phnom Penh Sugar, a wholly owned subsidiary of the LYP Group run by senator and tycoon Ly Yong Phat, is one of the biggest players in the sugarcane business, having invested $220 million on plantation and factories in Cambodia.
The company, which started production in 2012, has a concession for 9,300 hectares of land in Kampong Speu province.
The kingdom imports between 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes of sugarcane every year, according to a representative of Phnom Penh Sugar.
However, only 100,000 to 150,000 tonnes are absorbed by the local market, with the remaining sugarcane being re-exported.
During the meeting yesterday, Mr Li agreed to increase their quota for imports of Cambodian milled rice, from 200,000 tonnes to 300, 000.
During the opening of the LMC summit on Wednesday, Mr Hun Sen also encouraged China to purchase more Cambodian cassava.
Since 2007, trade between Cambodia and China has increased by 26 percent every year, on average.
Cambodia’s exports to China rose sharply during the first 11 months of 2017, by as much as 18 percent compared with the same period in 2016, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Commerce.
Cambodian shipments to the Chinese market consisted mostly of agricultural products, primarily rice, cassava, cashew nuts, semi-processed palm oil and rubber.
Imports from China were mainly cars, motorcycles, construction material, fabric for garment factories, cigarettes and fertilizers.