China will work with Cambodian officials to broaden the range of agricultural products that the Asian economic giant allows to be imported from the Kingdom, government officials said yesterday.
Ken Ratha, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, confirmed that China’s General Administration, Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) had agreed to establish a joint task force, which will develop a new Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) protocol, granting more Cambodian agricultural produce, such as pepper, mangos and cashews, access to the Chinese market.
“This SPS certificate is an important step towards market expansion for our agriculture products,” Ratha said, adding that historically Cambodian farmers have been forced to rely on Thai or Vietnamese buyers to relay their produce onto to the Chinese market.
China’s General Administration has final say over all product quality and safety of imported food in China. Currently, China only allows Cambodian rice and cassava into their market due to General Administration’s strict sanitation regulations.
“We will be able to reduce our reliance on neighbouring countries as markets for our crops and be able to directly export to China. Having China as a market, farmers will have more confidence about demand and pricing of their products,” Ratha said.
According to Ratha, the ministries of agriculture and commerce will work together to select a committee for the joint task force. Once the protocol has been finalised, guidelines and standards will be dispersed to Cambodian farmers.
In addition to opening the trade lines between China and Cambodia for products such as fruit, cashew nuts and rubber, China has also agreed to amend rice import protocols to include broken rice.
Hun Lak, president of rice exporter Mekong Oryaza Trade, said China is a key market for Cambodia’s rice sector after the European Union.
“Though Cambodia is granted [duty-free status in the EU through its Everything But Arms scheme], it will not be forever. So we have to expand our market to countries like China,” Lak said.
“I expect more demand from China if Cambodia does well on producing good quality rice and supplies it on time,” he said.
Meas Leun, a cassava and corn farmer in Pailin province, welcomed the news, saying it could potentially release him from selling to Thai traders who then export to China.
“This is very good news. I hope farmers will be able to sell their crop at a higher price and have a more stable market,” he said.
Leun added that the government should focus on ensuring the proposed standards were well documented and clearly communicated to farmers once they are established.