Australian Ambassador Pablo Kang has met Cambodian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries HE Veng Sakhon to discuss strengthening agricultural exports and how Australia can assist boosting local food security and rural incomes.
The meeting was held at the Ministry’s headquarters in Phnom Penh and a key topic was Australia’s signature agricultural aid initiative – the Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain Programme (CAVAC) – that will provide more than $50 million to mobilise additional advisers to help the government maintain food security and resolve supply chain issues in the face of COVID-19 disruption.
The programme will also work with farmers, businesses and government to boost agricultural productivity, diversify crops and target new markets, all of which are critical given the number of Cambodian workers expected to enter the agriculture sector because of job losses elsewhere.
According to the Australian Embassy, CAVAC has already built irrigation schemes providing 12,000 Cambodian farmers with year-round access to irrigated water and is supporting 135,000 farmers to improve their farming practices.
In a statement released after the meeting, Veng Sakhon stated his profound thanks to the Australian Government and people for their continued support for the development of Cambodia.
“These projects have really contributed to improving productivity, creating jobs, ensuring food security, increasing exports, competing to improve living standards, reduce poverty, migration and promote national economic growth,” Veng said.
“In the context that Cambodia is facing a global epidemic of deadly COVID-19 and isespecially in line with the policy of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has called on people to work hard to cultivate and promote agricultural production to increase the supply of domestic demand and increase productivity to ensure food supply for the daily living of the people and the economy,” Veng added.
In response, Pablo Kang told Khmer Times: “Australia is proud to be a long-standing supporter of the agriculture sector in Cambodia. The economic effects of COVID-19 make it even more important that we continue to this support, so Cambodian farmers can earn incomes and feed their families.”
Additionally, the two also discussed the potential for increasing “fragrant rice” exports to the Australian market with 9,700 tonnes rice having already been exported to Australia in the first three months of this year. Allowing some rice trading to continue after Hun Sen banned all exports of white rice and paddy to keep for local consumption from earlier this month until further notice to keep
According to Lun Yeng, secretary-general of the Cambodia Rice Federation, Australia has the potential to be a leading export destination for Cambodia’s fragrant rice exports now and general rice exports in the future.
“Australia is becoming a new and leading potential market for both Cambodia’s premium and general rice exports because over the last few years exports from Cambodia to Australia have increased significantly,” Yeng said.
“Also, we think Australia will be a good market because many buyers have partnered directly with local rice producers to ensure that quality and production is in line with good sustainable practices for our farmers.”