T HE government and the French Development Bank have reached an agreement on
restructuring ownership to eventually privatize Cambodia's six rubber
The plan announced last week calls for the bank to provide a
$2 million grant to pay for legal and financial assistance, the training of 40
people, preparation of nurseries and replanting materials and infrastructure
Cambodia's six rubber plantations, mostly located north of
Phnom Penh in Kampong Cham, are now owned by the government, but the strategy is
to have foreign investors take over and restore them. The plantations were built
during the first half of the century by the French. Some of the trees are 60 and
70 years old, which is beyond their productive years, according to an
agriculture ministry official.
The prospects for the industry attracting
investors are believed to be good. The World Bank's annual report in February
said the rubber industry is one of the few areas in which foreign investment may
come from companies outside of the Asean countries.
The agreeement with
the French Development Bank in addition to the assistance and training, provides
for the bank to make loans to encourage investment in replanting the rubber
plantations and in manufacturing products.
A Ministry of Agriculture
official said several critical problems are facing the rubber plantations,
including the illegal cutting of trees, smuggling to Vietnam and
It has been 25 years since any widespread planting was
undertaken. Chhun Sareth, under-secretary of state for the Ministry of
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, said the oldest rubber trees planted in the
1920s, 30s and 40s, should be cut.
"But I am worried they will cut down
the trees and will not replant." He said the rubber companies "only have time to
collect the latex and manufacture. They don't have time to
Companies from Malaysia, China and Indonesia, among other
countries, have expressed an interest in Cambodia's rubber companies, said
Five of the rubber companies are in Kampong Cham, and one is in
Kratie Province. One plantation, the Chup Co., is responsible for about 6,000
jobs between collecting the latex, manufacturing the rubber blocks for export,
administering the plantation and providing services such as schools for the
The industry produced about 40,000 tons of rubber last
year, worth about $3 million.
Minister of Finance Keat Chhon and Minister
of Agriculture Tao Seng Huor said in an announcement that the agreement with the
French Development Bank is a major step towards the revitilization of one of the
main economic resources of Cambodia.