Cofco, China’s largest food processor, manufacturer and trader, will set up a working group in the kingdom to explore the possibilities available in the local agricultural market, including expanding the number of products it imports from Cambodia and investing in local infrastructure.
The announcement was made during a meeting in Beijing on Thursday between Yim Chhayly, Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of the Cambodian Agricultural and Rural Development Council, and Patrick Yu, the chairman of Cofco.
Some of the Cambodian products Cofco has expressed an interest in importing include pepper, cassava, cashew nuts, longan and rubber, according to the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture.
Cofco will also conduct in-depth market research to determine whether to invest in local infrastructure such as processing plants.
In 2017, the Chinese company purchased 200,000 tonnes of Cambodian agricultural products.
It also invested $200 million to build a holding tank and a refrigerated warehouse in Cambodia to store fish.
Song Saran, the CEO of Amru Rice, told Khmer Times that the Chinese market could absorb many more Cambodian products than it now does, particularly pepper, cashew nuts and cassava, and called on Chinese authorities to facilitate the process of obtaining sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) permits for Cambodian agricultural products.
“It’s not really a question of what to export, but when to do it,” Mr Saran said. “The harvest season of cashew nuts and cassava will start next month, and if there is no agreement signed to facilitate the process of obtaining SPS certificates, we will have to wait until next year.”
Mr Saran said stringent SPS requirements in the Chinese market have thus far prevented his company from exporting to the East Asian giant, and they have had to send their pepper, rice and cashews to Europe and the Middle East instead.
Later in the day, Mr Chhayly met with Gao Yan, the Chinese Deputy Minister of Commerce, who offered help to draft a master plan for modernising and diversifying the agriculture sector in Cambodia.
Mr Yan also agreed to work with China’s Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) department to include more Cambodian agricultural products in their list of products approved for importation.