Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday said the upcoming government-backed bank for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME Bank) will finance firms involved in agroprocessing, particularly those creating finished products destined for the local and international markets.
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Speaking to about 18,000 garment workers in Chbar Mon city in Kampong Speu province, Mr Hun Sen said the SME Bank will have a capital of $100 million and will start its funding operations soon.
“Cambodia has a lot of raw agriculture materials that can be processed into finished products for the market,” Mr Hun Sen said.
For example, he said Cambodia now produces its own wines, some of them made from palm sugar.
“We are trying to push the processing of pepper, durian, rambutan and many others as substitutes for imports. These products can also be exported.
“The government invested millions of dollars in factories, rice milling machines, silos and warehouses to boost the agricultural sector and maintain the prices of agriculture products stable,” the premier said.
Song Saran, CEO of Amru Rice, told Khmer Times it is the right time for Cambodia to process more of its raw products into finished ones, particularly since in the last two decades the Kingdom has become a supplier of raw materials to many countries around the world.
“Agriculture is one of the key sectors for economic growth. I believe the SME Bank will contribute significantly to the development of the processing sector in Cambodia.”
He said local SMEs should now prioritise modernising their production chains to compete with other companies in the region.
“Cambodia should push for the adoption of technology and automated systems to modernise and reach industry 3.0 or 4.0 standards,” Mr Saran said.
“We can do this now as we have enough human resources available.
“If we have more warehouses, silos, railways, roads, waterways, and ports to connect the farmers to the processing factories, the agroprocessing sector will see vast improvements, but we need the support of the government,” Mr Saran said.
Speaking at an economic forum in March, Vongsey Vissoth, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said the bank will start operations next year.
He said not all SMEs will have access to the SME Bank, however, with the institution targeting only small firms in the agriculture and service sectors, particularly tourism companies and startups.