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Diversify crop exports: official

cassava
Labourers peel cassava along a road in Kratie province’s Snuol district. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

CAMBODIA needs greater diversification of its exports – especially in the agricultural sector – in order to achieve sustainable economic growth, a senior official said yesterday.

Economy and Finance Minister Keat Chhon raised the issue during the annual meeting of the Ministry of Commerce.

“I request that the Ministry of Commerce export more agricultural products, rather than  garments and shoes. This will require us to look for other potential goods,” he said. “Product diversity is important for Cambodia’s exports. In the future, Cambodia cannot afford to rely on just a few products.”

Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said that as well as garments and shoes, Cambodia exported a large of number of bicycles, produced in special economic zones.

Exports of agricultural products were also on the rise, but not by much, Prasidh said. “We have always exported agricultural products, but we don’t seem to be promoting them as strongly as we should be.”

“The trade in agricultural products is quite good for Cambodia, because we receive tax benefits in many export markets.

“When we comply with their required standards, we will export much more.

“We hope that even more milled rice will be exported this year, and we have a large potential market in Europe for our sugar.”

Prasidh said investment in new production facilities in Cambodia meant exports of electrical components were also growing.

Chhon said Cambodia had more duty-free market options than ever.

“Developing countries should take advantage of this – these are key elements for trade growth,” he said.

Cambodia Economic Association president Chan Sophal said that the more agricultural products were exported, the better it would be for farmers, as well as the Kingdom’s economic stability.

Cambodia should sign official export agreements with neighbouring countries to ensure  farmers’ produce was bought every year, thus maintaining stable prices, Sophal said.

“The aim should be to increase official exports as much as we can. Cambodia has to make an official agreement with neighbouring countries that buy Khmer products to avoid price fluctuations.”

Ministry of Commerce figures show Cambodia’s total trade volume was $13.4 billion last year. Exports accounted for $5.5 billion of this figure.

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