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Foreign food processors attracted by Kingdom’s diverse agriculture

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
Rice workers prepare sacks of milled rice at a warehouse. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia exported around 7 million tonnes of agricultural products in 2019, according to the minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon said the figure was made up of 4.784 million tonnes of formal exports and more than 2 million tonnes of informal exports. The latter avoid tariffs.

Veng said Cambodia exported 620,106 tonnes of milled rice, of which 248,105 (40.7 percent) went to China, 202, 990 tonnes (32 percent) to the EU, 83,164 tonnes (13.41 percent) to Asean members and 85,847 tonnes to other market destinations.

Veng added that Cambodia also exported about 1.608 million tonnes of fresh cassava, 1.626 million tonnes of cassava starch, and 56,874 tonnes of cassava powder. In addition to that, 202,318 tonnes of cashew nuts, nearly 120,000 tonnes of corn, 57,250 tonnes of soybeans, nearly 157,812 tonnes of bananas, nearly 60 tonnes of mangoes, more than 3,693 tonnes of pepper and other crops amounting to 273,866 tonnes were exported by the Kingdom in 2019.

“Informal rice exports in 2019 amounted to more than 2 million tonnes to Vietnam in border provinces such as Takeo, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Kandal and Kampot. However, the major markets for Cambodia’s agricultural products are China, Europe, Asean members, Japan, USA, Korea, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Australia,” Veng added.

According to the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), Cambodia’s milled rice export accounts for about 1.2 percent of the international market. CRF’s president Song Saran said that Cambodia’s markets are mostly Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia.

“We can export 400,000 tonnes of milled rice to China if there is no obstacle on sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues,” Song added.

He says the CRF is aiming to export a million tonnes of milled rice within three years, made up of fragrant rice and sustainable rice.

“We set our first markets in Asia such as China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. Second, we have to ensure delivery of our rice exports to the EU and the US markets. We are also starting to focus on the African market for expansion,” Song added.

Cambodia mostly exported only unprocessed agriculture products to foreign countries. However, late last month, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen began calling for more investment in agriculture processing and technology in the Kingdom.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony on Dec 26, 2019, Mr Hun Sen said the government’s policy is to boost rice production and export 1 million tonnes. However, of the two goals, we have achieved only one,” Mr Hun Sen said. “We have a  paddy surplus of nearly 6 million tonnes per year. However, we cannot achieve 1 million tonnes of rice exports,” he added.

Mr Hun Sen said about 70 percent of the leftover paddy was sold to Vietnam and Thailand absorbed 30 percent.

He said: “Previously, we were lacking silos, warehouses and rice milling stations. Therefore, our choice is to sell paddy to neighbouring countries.

“Now, we are attracting investors to the processing industry in Cambodia. We want foreign friends to invest in the agro-processing industry in Cambodia. Because our industrial policy is designed to attract the industry to process agriculture products, it does not demand big capital investment. SMEs [small and medium enterprises] must run the processing both locally and internationally. We have many potential agricultural products.”

“We want investment in the technological side of the industry. Although we have many intensive labour industries such as garments, we cannot stand still, so we have to attract high technology and high added-value industry to the Kingdom.”

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