US companies eye ‘enormous’ potential of local agriculture

Sok Chan / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
US Ambassador William Heidt speaks at the forum. KT/Mai Vireak

A group of leading US firms invited by the US Embassy is now in Phnom Penh exploring investment opportunities in Cambodia’s agriculture sector.

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The group of 16 US firms includes 3M Company, Cargill, Humate USA, Hydro-Thermal Corporation, Intervet, John Deere, and Syngenta, as well as Southeast Asian companies that distribute US brands. They participated yesterday in a forum on business opportunities in Cambodia’s agriculture sector organised by the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Together, the companies have operations in 140 countries, boasting top-of-the-line technology, equipment, and expertise in biotech, fertilizers, packaging, automation, agrochemicals, data analysis, veterinary medicine and harvest equipment.

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Speaking at the forum, US Ambassador William Heidt said the time has come for America’s top agricultural corporations to cooperate with Cambodian enterprises and bring world-class technology, equipment and services into the Kingdom.

“The timing is right. Some good Cambodia companies are now ready to partner with US companies. They are big enough and have the necessary skills to be good business partners,” Mr Heidt said.

Yesterday’s forum marks the first time the US Embassy organises a trade event in the agriculture sector.

Mr Heidt said the US companies invited to the event represent American values, adhering to high professional standards and respected around the world for having corporate cultures that promote transparency, community focused development and adherence to the law.

“US companies here are looking for customers, but they are also looking for long-term partners. They seek partnerships with farmers, local communities, and committed government officials,” Mr Heidt said.

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“Our job now is to dig into the details of the local agriculture sector’s growth potential. We hope this event is the start of many long-term partnerships and processes that will bring more agriculture business and trade to both our countries,” he added.

Cham Nimul, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Commerce. KT/Mai Vireak

Song Saran, CEO of Amru Rice, a leading local rice exporter, told Khmer Times that establishing business ties with US firms can only boost the sector.

“The product with the most potential is rice. The US buys a lot of rice for Cambodia, particularly fragrant rice,” Mr Saran said.

Cham Nimul, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Commerce, said the ministry will do everything in its power to facilitate trade deals between the visiting firms and Cambodian companies.

“It’s our job to assure foreign investors that Cambodia is open for business and that we are seeking long-term partnerships that will remain strong regardless of geopolitical events,” Ms Nimul said.

“The Ministry of Commerce stands ready to facilitate your investment,” she told the representatives of the attending US companies.

Ms Nimul highlighted some of the areas in which US partnerships could have the greatest impact. She said the local agriculture sector is hampered by low productivity and poor inputs.

The country’s ability to export produce is severely hindered by an inefficient supply chain, unsustainable practices in livestock and aquaculture production, and a general failure to meet international sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements.

US Ambassador William Heidt. KT/Mai Vireak

“Moreover, export facilitation mechanism have not yet been fully integrated,” she said.

Ambassador Heidt said that Cambodian agriculture has enormous potential. From 2004 to 2012, he pointed out, the sector grew by 5.3 percent, on of the fastest rates in the world.

“(From 2004 to 2012) crop yields and agricultural exports increased significantly, and larger, more competitive companies emerged,” the ambassador said.

However, he said agricultural growth has slowed down in recent years.

Mr Heidt concluded his remarks by saying that, if the right policies are put in place, Cambodia could develop into a leading agricultural producer in the future.

The US is Cambodia’s largest single export market. In 2017, two-way trade totalled $3.5 billion, with US exports to Cambodia reaching $400 million, a jump of 11 percent. That same year, the US bought $3.1 billion in Cambodian goods.

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