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Investment firm set to field agricultural SEZ

Husain Haider / Khmer Times Share:
A farmer in Tbong Khmum province transports a bail of hay for his livestock. Crop production contributes about 54 percent to the agro-sector’s GDP, with fisheries accounting for 25 percent, livestock for 15 per cent and forestry and logging for the remainder, according to the UN’s FAO. KT/Husain Haider

Investment firm Khmer Holdings Group (KHG) have met with Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Veng Sakhon after having secured support from the Centre for Belt and Road Development (CBRD) to further discussions on a series of development projects in the pipeline to benefit the agricultural sector.

KHG has expressed interest in developing an agro-centric special economic zone (SEZ) in Kampong Speu province with Chinese backing. The proposal will see the SEZ support the sector by providing cold storage for crops, traditional medicinal plants, processing and goods for export.

“Cambodia’s agricultural sector has strong prospects but we still lack domestic and foreign investors to reach our full potential. There is still work to be done to enhance productivity and foster competitive production, processing and exports to meet the market demand,” Sakhon said in a news release issued by the ministry on Wednesday.

Despite the economic turmoil triggered by the ongoing pandemic, the Kingdom’s agriculture industry, which accounted for 22 percent of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product [GDP], grew by 36 percent  last year, marking a bright spot in otherwise bleak economic conditions.

An agricultural SEZ in Kampong Speu has the potential to be particularly lucrative, given its location along the Chinese-funded Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, which will provide it access to the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.

“This Chinese government-sponsored investment project is an important step in further deepening our solidarity, friendship and cooperation between our two countries and helping sustain economic growth,” said Sakhon.

Kampong Speu province has seen a flurry of investments leading up to the opening of the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway in 2022. Overseas Cambodia Investment Corp announced plans for a 500-hectare industrial park to attract investments in the region.

The ministry also encouraged KHG to form a working group to explore construction of a research institute for medicinal plants, saying that the Royal University of Agriculture in Phnom Penh would be an ideal location and that a plot belonging to the ministry in Steung Treng province could serve as an alternative. A separate institute for the cultivation and research of medicinal plants as well as a plant and factory for processing and packing goods for export in Koh Kong is also in the works, the news release said.

KHG will also evaluate Mondulkiri, Oddar Meanchey and Steung Treng provinces on their viability to serve as sites to grow medicinal herbs. The sites will be evaluated on their soil quality, access to water, environmental impact and access to road networks.

The minister also encouraged the CBRD to draw up a formal project proposal, establish a working group as well as a memorandum of understanding before beginning work on the project. This will be followed by private and state land |
concessions.

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