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A mechanical harvester operates on a rice field in Takeo province in July
A mechanical harvester operates on a rice field in Takeo province in July. Hong Menea

Export standards too high: PM

The food safety standards that rich nations apply to Cambodian agricultural goods are restricting the Kingdom’s export potential, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony yesterday at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, Hun Sen said that finding export markets for the Kingdom’s agriculture products was hindered by trade barriers in wealthy countries.

“Some big developed countries still practise farmers’ protectionist policies as a barrier not to let our products flow into their countries,” he said, without naming any specific nations.

Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) procedures, or the rules concerning food safety, and the application of animal and plant regulations on exports were an added barrier, the prime minister said.

“Some developed countries dare not lift import barriers for our agricultural products, or, even if they lift the barriers, they set out SPS restrictions, which means a [further] barrier for our products to access to their market,” he added.

Hun Sen said it was “unfair” that poorer nations struggled to access the markets of developed countries when richer nations could easily export to less-developed countries.

“Because of their requirements, we still cannot enter their market”, he continued.

The prime minister did call upon farmers, however, to also lift the standards of their products.

“We should also work to improve our agricultural products’ quality,” he said.

Son Chhay, senior opposition lawmaker, said yesterday the food-safety sanitation regulations were common free-market rules and that calling on farmers to lift standards would not resolve the trade problems.

“Calling for improving quality is not effective at all. Farmers need supporting policy from the government. Budget for the Ministry of Agriculture is only 3 per cent of the total national budget. It is very little when 80 per cent of the population is farmers,” Chhay explained.

“The government has to establish policies to help farmers learn new farming techniques. Provincial officials do not have the means to transfer knowledge to farmers as there is no budget for them to do so,” he went on to say.

Independent economist Srey Chanthy explained that more education was needed so that farmers can improve their standards to meet export quality.

“An immediate- or medium-term investment and supporting policies from the government to improve SPS will help solve this issue,” he said.

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