Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday said he will request South Korea to increase imports of Cambodian agricultural products, an effort to diversify export markets and avoid reliance on just a few economic partners.
The appeal will be made today during the Cambodia-Korea Business Forum, an event Mr Hun Sen will preside over together with Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is currently visiting the Kingdom.
“During the Cambodia-Korea Investment Forum, I will suggest South Korea that they should buy more agricultural products from Cambodia,” Mr Hun Sen told officials at the annual meeting of the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We should not rely on just one market as this can cause problems. We must diversify our export markets,” he said.
“We need to open up more markets. Some years ago, we just imported but now we have surpluses of different products and we must export them. We need to work together to make our economy grow sustainably and make it resilient against external threats,” Mr Hun Sen said.
President Moon Jae-in is now on a three-day visit to the Kingdom that will end tomorrow. It is part of a regional trip that has taken him also to Malaysia and Brunei in an effort to strengthen diplomatic ties with Southeast Asian nations in line with Korea’s ‘New Southern Policy’.
Seang Thay, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said the South Korean market currently absorbs a small volume of Cambodian agricultural products, representing a great opportunity to expand exports.
He said the countries already signed a memorandum of understanding on the exportation of dried mango.
“We have a lot of agricultural products that we could potentially send to South Korea but the problem for us is Korea’s strict sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations.
“We hope that Korea will cooperate with us to help us meet those SPS requirements once Prime Minister Hun Sen talks to the Korean president.”
Cashew nuts, corn, cassava, longan fruit, and rubber are among the products Cambodia could start shipping to the Korean market, he added.
On Thursday, Cambodia’s Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron and Baek Sook-Hee, vice president of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica), signed a Record of Discussions for a series of initiatives to boost the startup ecosystem in the Kingdom, including the construction of an incubation centre. As per the RoD, Cambodia will receive $7 million from the Korean government in grants for the project.
Bilateral trade between South Korea and Cambodia reached $746 million last year compared to around $660 million in 2017, an increase of more than 13 percent.
Cambodia’s exports in 2018 to the East Asian nation equalled $202 million, up 20 percent from the previous year, while imports from Korea amounted to $543 million, an 11 percent increase, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Cambodia produced 10.8 million tonnes of paddy rice last year, an increase of 3.5 percent year-on-year, generating a surplus of 5.8 million tonnes, or 3.7 million tonnes of milled rice.
That same year the country exported 626,225 tonnes of milled rice, a 1.5 percent decrease from 2017.
Last year, the country exported a combined 4.2 million tonnes of bananas, cassava, cashew nuts, corn, sugar, coconuts, and palm oil.