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Officials zero in on 19 products to make Cambodia competitive

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Cambodian farmers and manufacturers are losing out to higher quality goods from Thailand and Vietnam, say experts from the United Nations and the government

AFP

Cambodian farmers are losing out in local markets to regional rivals.

CAMBODIA'S farmers and manufacturers are losing out to regional competitors who have higher-quality goods and better business models, trade officials say.

The Commerce Ministry and UN Development Programme have zeroed in on 19 goods to promote for niche markets by improving production and packaging standards, officials told the Post Wednesday.

These include 14 agricultural products such as corn, rice and livestock, and five service sector products, ranging from tourism to light manufacturing and labour.

"We are promoting and developing a strategy to increase the quality and quantity of those products," said Sok Darith of the Commerce Ministry's Trade Promotion Department on Wednesday.

Cambodia exports garments to the United States, European Union, Canada and Japan, but has failed to diversify its other sectors, with its agriculture bound largely for Thailand and Vietnam.

Thailand, on the other hand, has successfully promoted agricultural sales in non-Asian markets, including Europe and the Middle East, as well as Africa - a continent that Cambodia's government increasingly sees as being  a buyer of its biggest agricultural export: rice.

You need to show that rice millers are able to target the right market.

Wisal Hin, the trade and private sector analyst with UNDP's Poverty Reduction Cluster, said the agency is supporting the Commerce Ministry's Trade Promotion Department with training courses and study tours to South Africa to allow rice producers to meet with African buyers.
He also urged the Commerce Ministry to help farmers increase the quality of their rice to appeal to US and South African buyers.

The Trade Promotion Department "has to give people advice about future market demand," he said.

"You need to show that rice millers are able to target the right market for the right products," said Wisal. "Right now world competition is not so much on price, but how you are able to reach the standards," said Wisal Hin.

"We need to know the obstacles...and remove the obstacles," he added.

He urged local producers to think about value added, not just selling the raw materials.

"Tell them, ‘You have market choices in potential exporting products.'"

Yin Yanno, an official with Asean and International Organisations Department for the Commerce Ministry said the export promotion project needs to reduce bottlenecks facing producers.

"Now is a period of research to determine what exactly farmers producing these 19 goods items need," he said.

Yin Yanno added that  Africa could be a strong market for Cambodian rice.

Tep Khunnal, the Governor of Malai district near the Thai border welcomed the ministry initiative.

"We have faced difficulties because we have only one market in Thailand - if the Commerce Ministry helps us find another market, our farmers will be very happy."

Phou Puy, the president of the Federation of Cambodian Rice Millers Associations said that Cambodia will have enough rice to supply the international market.

He said Cambodia would be able to export two million tonnes of rice in 2008 to export and expected to be able export 2 millions tons in 2009.  

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