The Agri-Food Investment Desk (AFID) has been set up at the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) to push investment in the agri-food ecosystem beyond its traditionally limited levels and stimulate the development of a stronger, more resilient sector.

AFID was established under the auspices of the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade via the Cambodia-Australia Agricultural Value Chain (CAVAC) programme, in collaboration with the CDC and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The aim is to accelerate activities to spur investment in the sector to ensure food security, alleviate poverty by creating more jobs and to drive economic growth and environmental sustainability.

CDC secretary-general Sok Chenda Sophea on July 15 said that the AFID is the only information technology platform that will provide information and help investors tap into Cambodia’s agricultural resources, and receive attractive incentives, thanks to the new Law on Investment.

He said CDC will guide investors at every stage to ensure rapid returns and provide support to ensure better living conditions for farmers and their families.

“The main tools [provided by AFID] are apt for the current circumstances under Covid-19. We will encourage relevant ministries to promote the country and attract foreign investors to invest in the processing of agricultural products,” he said.

Australian ambassador to Cambodia Pablo Kang said his government is committed to supporting the Kingdom’s economic development process, particularly to increasing productivity in the agricultural sector by jointly promoting investment in the agri-food sector.

The ambassador noted that Australia is a big supporter of the agricultural industry, which he referred to as the backbone of the Cambodian economy.

Noting that the annual growth rate of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Cambodia’s agricultural sector has remained low at about four per cent, Kang hailed AFID as an exemplification of Australia’s contributions to the Kingdom’s efforts to attract and maintain investment in agriculture, agribusiness and agri-food.

Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon underlined that the agricultural sector has been growing, and producing food in excess of domestic demand.

Progress in the sector is “encouraging and inspiring” the private sector and development partners to invest in processing industries to enable the sustainable use of domestic raw materials, increase value-added, improve quality, hygiene and safety standards, and increase competitiveness, he said.

“The launch of AFID reflects our efforts to facilitate and resolve issues related to the facilitation of agri-food investment, as well as help the agro-industrial sector,” the minister said.

He added that AFID would “help in our work from now on” and support the implementation of “The Strategic Framework and Programmes for Economic Recovery in the Context of Living with Covid-19 in a New Normal 2021-2023”, a comprehensive roadmap to safely guide the economy as the novel coronavirus becomes endemic.

Having said that, Sakhon noted that “only two to 10 per cent” of agricultural products are processed, highlighting that the private sector still faces a host of challenges that need to be jointly addressed, such as power supply and logistics instabilities, and a lack of warehousing and cold storage facilities as well as drying silos.

“They do not meet the actual demand. This must be addressed in a timely and effective manner,” he said.

At the launch of AFID, Hun Lak, CEO of Rich Farm Asia Ltd, reiterated that Cambodia has problems with high production costs and a shortage of skilled labour, which require the government’s consideration.

“In order to woo local and foreign investors to invest in this sector, it is necessary to have better local infrastructure and training for skilled workers,” he said.

Between its inception in 1994 and June 30, CDC approved about 400 investment projects in agriculture, agro-industry and food processing with a total value of $10.33 billion.