Agricultural exports to 68 countries came in more than 4.5 million tonnes in the first seven months of this year, with total value increasing 7.7 per cent year-on-year to $2.6 billion from $2.4 billion, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries stated.

The General Department of Agriculture, quoting export figures from the National Phytosanitary Database, showed that out of 4.5 million tonnes, 362,708 tonnes comprised milled rice, 1.5 million tonnes (paddy rice) and 2.6 million tonnes were non-rice agricultural products.

However, the volume of agricultural exports was down 19.2 per cent compared to the same period in 2022.

Looking at the value of the exports, milled rice amounted to $314 million, paddy rice ($505 million) and non-rice agricultural products ($1.8 billion).

Although agricultural export volume to foreign markets have declined slightly in the first seven months, there was a 3.23 per cent increase in the first quarter of 2023 from last year.

“This is a positive sign leading to an increase soon. This increase is due to India now announcing a ban on milled rice exports to maintain food security in its country,” the ministry said.

Due to the rising prices of international milled rice, Cambodia is studying strategies that can benefit the economy by pushing up the capacity of local millers to buy, stockpile, increase processing and export directly to international markets.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economic researcher Hong Vannak told The Post on August 8 that a series of government policies on agriculture have made Cambodia an important source of agricultural supplies to international markets.

Agriculture is an important sector which can boost the economy, so the government should encourage more farmers and foreign investors to invest in agriculture, he said.

He opined that the decline in agricultural exports in the past seven months may be due to unfavourable weather, which results in lower yield.

At present, the Russia-Ukraine war and global climate change are placing pressure on human and animal malnutrition.

Vanak suggested that this could be an opportunity for Cambodia to increase production capacity in agriculture, such as paddy rice cultivation, animal husbandry and aquaculture.

“At this stage, Cambodia also needs to review its agricultural balance sheet to meet domestic demand and export. Cambodia must secure its inventory for domestic supply,” he said.

He added that if the government, people and investors focusses more on cultivating and processing agricultural products in the next four to five years, exports of agricultural products from Cambodia to international markets could increase more than now.

Agricultural production in Cambodia has been increasing every year, which is to increase domestic supply capacity and boost exports, said Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng.

Cambodia’s bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements and those that are in the process of signing would open up more international access to foreign markets for Cambodian agricultural exports.

“With free trade agreements, we get a lot of tax exemptions for agricultural products, therefore, we are attracting more foreign investment to boost cultivation and exports.

“I have also noticed that our agricultural products are produced according to the export market, such as paddy rice, corn, mango and banana, which are of better quality for export,” he said.

Last year, Agriculture Minister Dith Tina said close to $5 billion worth of agricultural products were exported to 74 countries in 2022.

This was equivalent to 8.6 million tonnes, which is an increase of more than seven per cent from 7.9 million tonnes in 2021.