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China weighs soybean, mango imports

China will increase its agricultural imports from Cambodia to include bananas, mango and soybeans, having already signed a food safety and health protocol for the import of corn last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Agriculture Minister Ouk Rabun, speaking at an annual review meeting on last Wednesday, said China, after signing a Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) protocol for corn, was exploring the possibility of importing other agricultural products, beyond the rice and cassava it already imports.

“The export of agricultural products to China will increase more because, besides rice and cassava, both parties have already agreed on a SPS protocol for corn to be exported to China and are checking the possibilities of exporting 100 per cent broken rice, soybean, mangos and banana,” he said.

“The ministry is also preparing a [SPS] protocol for mangos to be exported to [South] Korea too,” Rabun added.

Srey Chanthy, independent economic analyst, said increased demand from the Chinese market coupled with sound agricultural policies can help address issues like lack of sustainable supply and low productivity among Cambodia’s farmers.

“It is an issue in the short term. But in the medium and long terms, if no proper strategies are in place, I am afraid that the issue is not only about higher volumes for export, but low productivity, seasonality and regularity of supply, lack of irrigation and efficient water use and management,” he said.

“For the growing season, it may not be problematic. But the problem is how to supply these products and export to China on regular basis throughout the year, with the amounts it demands. Issues are not related to only lack of irrigation and farming techniques, but also lack of farm labor,” he added.

He, however, said the opportunity may give more benefit to commercial farming industries and plantation investors than to Cambodian farmers with small-holdings, unless “farmers get organized and coordinated” for the opportunity.

A lot of Cambodia’s agricultural products are exported to neighboring countries, where they are processed and exported to other countries. Figures from the Ministry of Commerce, show that, last year, the export of unprocessed agricultural products such as rubber, cashew nuts, corn, from Cambodia to Vietnam totalled about $50 million.

According to the recently published annual report for 2014-2015 of the Ministry of Agriculture, agricultural product exports to China increased sharply last year. Cassava exports to China doubled to 119,600 tonnes from the 55,200 tonnes exported in 2013, while rice export accounted for a third of the 150,000 tonnes exported in the first three months of 2015.

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