Cambodia exported more than 13 million tonnes of agricultural products last year, reaping in $3.433 billion, according to a new report by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
This is considerably lower than the $3.881 billion indicated by preliminary data cited by Prime Minister Hun Sen during a press briefing on December 29.
While not indicating the year-on-year change rate, the report mentioned that Cambodian agricultural exports are “showing better growth”, pointing out the Covid-19 pandemic’s detriments to garment and textile shipments as a contrast.
It said the Kingdom produced more than 20 million tonnes of agricultural products last year, implying that somewhere in the vicinity of 61-70 per cent was exported, accounting for rounding errors.
Cambodia shipped out 3,584,780 tonnes of rice worth more than $1.26 billion last year. Milled rice accounted for 690,829 tonnes (19.27 per cent) worth nearly $539 million(42.7 per cent) and paddy 2,893,951 tonnes (80.73 per cent) worth more than $723 million (57.3 per cent), according to data extrapolated from the report and earlier Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) statistics.
Milled rice marked an 11.40 per cent surge in volume from 2019, according to CRF. The corresponding figure for paddy was not available.
The report said: “In order to solve Cambodian farmers’ market issues, the ministry has tried to push for negotiations on phytosanitary requirements on key crops to open markets with countries intending to import
Cambodian agricultural products, and it has been successful in the past.”
In June for example, Cambodia signed an agreement with China to export 500,000 tonnes of fresh mangoes a year.
“The ministry will continue to promote close cooperation with the private sector, development partners, and especially agricultural and agro-industrial investment companies to achieve the common goal of developing a highly-efficient agricultural sector in Cambodia,” added the report.
Pann Chantrea, owner of the Thorn Chea rice mill in Tbong Khmum province’s O’Reang-ou district, told The Post that white rice was in high demand across most of Vietnam.
“We don’t ship out too much paddy because we’d face a shortage to grind for export and it’s better for us to sell finished products than raw ones,” she said.
Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath pointed out that paddy comprised the bulk of the Kingdom’s 2020 exports and is sold to neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam.
Fresh bananas and fresh mangoes were notable winners in the exporting arena last year, he said.
“Packaging and phytosanitary measures are fairly compliant with standards to ship to the Chinese market,” he told The Post.
Still, he said, Cambodia needs to ramp up the promotion of techniques among farmers that allow them to get the most out of the land and enable them to grow crops that meet the standards required for export, providing them the opportunity to tap into the market.
“The growth in agricultural-product export figures highlight the momentum of Cambodia’s economic opening, but it’s not yet enough … the government should encourage [farmers] more, especially in the realm of technology,” Sereyvath said.