Cambodia's agricultural exports this year have reached 2.82 million tonnes as of March 16, surging by over 22 per cent or about 511,000 tonnes year-on-year.

These numbers were revealed by Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director-general for Agriculture Ngin Chhay on March 18 at a press conference on the extent and effectiveness of utilisation of concessions under the bilateral free trade agreements (FTA) with China and South Korea, held at the Council of Ministers.

He listed the “important” agricultural products exported over the period as milled and paddy rice, cassava, cashew nuts, dried corn kernels, fresh bananas, mung beans, pomelos, fresh and dried mango, oil palm and peppercorn.

“While the growth of Cambodian agricultural exports to overseas markets has gained significant steam, there are still some major challenges in the implementation of sanitary and phytosanitary measures,” Chhay cautioned.

One such issue is a lack of supporting infrastructure for plant protection and phytosanitary research institutes and laboratories, and for the preservation and curation of scientific data, he said.

“Moreover, the infrastructure for cleaning, packaging and pest control does not yet meet the scale of production or exports,” he added.

Cambodia Rice Federation president Song Saran told The Post on March 20 that among Cambodia’s agricultural exports exported abroad, which had increased earlier this year, milled rice exports had increased significantly.

“In 2022, we will get more shipping containers into the EU than in 2021, but there are still challenges that we’re not yet well equipped to deal with, given the maritime transport situation.

“We expect that this year – at the pace we are going today – we’ll be able to increase our milled rice exports to 750,000 to 850,000 tonnes as planned,” he said. This would mark an increase over 2021 in the range of 21-38 per cent.

Tropicam Fruit and Vegetable Co Ltd CEO Hun Lak believes that overall rice exports are growing faster than for other agricultural products.

However, Lak highlighted two conundrums in the export market he said may become especially prevalent in the near future – the increasing difficulty of chartering a vessel and the spiralling costs of sending shipping containers – fuelled by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine that has sparked a surge in oil prices.

The recent upswing in reported Covid-19 metrics in China will most likely lead to significant headaches in Cambodia as well, disrupting the Kingdom’s agricultural exports to the East Asian country, he said.

“It’s become apparent that fresh mango exports are already in trouble, due to China’s lockdowns in response to the spread of Covid-19, and a considerable number of containers are unable to enter China from Vietnam, prompting Vietnamese traders to stop buying mangoes from Cambodia,” Lak said.

According to the National Sanitation Database, Cambodia exported 7.98 million tonnes of agricultural products to 68 countries and territories last year, up by 63.84 per cent or 3.11 million tonnes from 4.87 million tonnes in 2020.

Of that, milled rice exports topped 617,000 tonnes, down by 10.68 per cent year-on-year – from 690,829 tonnes according to CRF statistics. However, sales to “China” reached about 310,000 tonnes, up by seven per cent or around 20,000 tonnes year-on- year.

By comparison, local media outlet Fresh News cited CRF data as indicating that milled rice exports amounted to 617,069 tonnes, of which 50.19 per cent or 309,709 tonnes went to mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau.

Paddy exports to Vietnam reached about 3.53 million tonnes, an uptick of 1.34 million tonnes or 61.16 per cent from 2.19 million tonnes in 2020.

Exports of non-rice agricultural products reached 5.18 million tonnes, an increase of 1.68 million tonnes or 48.14 per cent compared to 2020.