The government has announced plans to launch an agricultural development policy to address the challenges and drive the development of modern agriculture in response to regional economic changes and the global Covid-19 crisis.

Prime Minister Hun Sen introduced the Agricultural Development Policy 2021-2030 on March 23 at the closing ceremony of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ meeting to review the annual results of 2021 and implement plans for 2022.

He said at the meeting that Cambodia’s agricultural industry is a “priority sector” that ensures food security, nutrition and stable exports for the Kingdom.

Hun Sen noted that more investment is needed in various aspects of the sector, naming in particular the building of physical infrastructure, supporting agriculture, irrigation, transport and logistics, agricultural credit, research and development of new varieties and the promotion of modern technology.

“The government has given priority to the introduction of the Agricultural Development Policy 2021-2030, which is planned to be implemented in the near future, and requested the active participation of all stakeholders, including the public sector, private sector and development partners.

“They need to integrate closely with local agricultural community producers to address the challenges the producers are facing,” he said.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon said that the agricultural sector still faces long-term challenges such as low crop productivity and limited agricultural diversification and trade.

Agricultural systems in Cambodia are often negatively impacted by climate change, especially through droughts and floods.

Sakhon pointed out that communicable animal diseases also place a heavy burden on agricultural development, and that forestry and fisheries crime continues to be an ongoing problem affecting the sector.

He added that domestic support infrastructure was not yet sufficient to meet demand, and investment in agro-processing was currently limited.

Sakhon said that where there was infrastructure in place, production and processing costs were still high, as prices of fertilisers and pesticides had risen during the Covid-19 crisis. Domestically produced animal feed is now 20 per cent more expensive than in neighbouring countries.

“In response to these challenges, the Conference requested that the relevant ministries and institutions intervene in the agricultural sector and hold discussions focusing on topics related to key measures,” he said. The sectors to be targeted include the rubber sector and sub-sectors of animal health and animal production.

Such discussions will “revive the economy during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, driving an increase in aquaculture quality that is in line with market demand”, he said.

Sam Vito, an independent consultant on Cambodian agriculture, said that local production must focus on a number of important factors such as quality, price, community clusters and production plans.

“In general, we see that in relation to these points, we Cambodians have done a lot. But our efforts are still unfortunately not enough, which encourages a lot of imports.

“If we can focus on and target these factors, it will be a good way to bring farmers together and collaborate to make the products more competitive and appropriate to [the population and export market’s] needs.”

Figures from the ministry show that the value of agricultural exports in 2021 reached $5 billion, an increase of 25 per cent compared to 2020.