The prime minister said he will seek other overseas markets for the Kingdom’s agricultural products, especially rice exports, claiming that Cambodia cannot rely on only one market.
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Speaking at the closing ceremony of 2018-2019 Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Annual Result Review Meeting, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia’s agricultural sector is showing progress, with it producing nearly six million tonnes of paddy, which can be processed into four million tonnes of milled rice.
He said the Kingdom currently faces the potential removal of the EU’s "Everything But Arms" (EBA) preferential system.
As such, the prime minister said the Kingdom’s milled rice processing capacity, market shortages and high production costs are major obstacles for Cambodia’s milled rice and other exports to compete with neighbouring countries.
"Obviously in the meantime, Cambodia’s bid to export rice to the Philippines cannot beat Vietnam nor Thailand [in terms of price]," he said.
He said the Kingdom this year will boost agricultural product exports to more markets.
"Tomorrow [Friday], according to my plan, I will ask South Korean [President Moon Jae-in] to help buy more Cambodian products. Our market cannot sink under any market by having them hold our noses and suffocating us."
"This year, I will head over to some Central Asian countries and take our products there, and we’ll go further to the Middle Eastern market. We’ll open our market-wide," he said.
The prime minister also urged the ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Commerce, to work together to achieve the target of exporting 400,000 tonnes of milled rice to China and 300,000 tonnes to Vietnam.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, between December 1 last year to February this year, Cambodia produced 10.87 million tonnes of paddy – up 3.37 per cent from the previous season – with more than 5.8 million tonnes in surpluses. This can yield more than 3.7 million tonnes of milled rice.
Cambodia Rice Federation vice-president Hun Lak expressed hope that the Kingdom could gain new markets for its product exports.
"If we can access more foreign markets, investors will focus on the major sectors for export and come invest more in Cambodia," he said.
He said that aside from the rice sector, the Kingdom boasts many agricultural and agro-industrial products for export. Reliance on limited markets is detrimental to fortifying the Kingdom’s agricultural sector.
"Exploring new markets on the part of the leaders is a main wish of the private sector," he said.
Centre for Policy Studies director Chan Sophal said Cambodia is a potential exporter of various goods to South Korea and Middle Eastern countries. However, the Kingdom needs a mechanism in place safeguarding quality restrictions.
"Normally, when we can diversify our exports to more goods, it will help domestic production and the national economy to grow faster," he said.
Rice export figures showed that the Kingdom exported more than 626,000 tonnes of rice last year, an increase of some 635,000 tonnes in 2017.