In an effort to promote local agriculture and inspire a sense of nationalism among Cambodians, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries is set to host the "Khmer Agricultural Village" fair and the "Discuss the Taste of Khmer Agricultural Products" forum. 

The two-day event, will take place on June 1 and 2 at the capital’s Chip Mong Mega Mall 271, under the presidency of first lady Pich Chanmony.

The fair aims to connect local producers with consumers, particularly those in the wedding catering industry and foster a deeper appreciation for Cambodian agricultural products.

Khim Finan, ministry spokesman, described the importance of the fait in promoting local agriculture and encouraging consumers to embrace and support national products. 

"We have included a panel discussion which will encourage local food service providers and wedding catering service companies to use local agricultural products,” he told The Post.

The ministry's announcement also highlighted that the event seeks to inspire nationalism and support for the Kingdom’s farmers, thus strengthening the agricultural sector. 

By bringing together stakeholders from various sectors, including consumers and catering services, the event hopes to create a robust platform for discussing the use of local agricultural products in various festivities and celebrations.

While speaking with wedding catering service companies and entrepreneurs during the forum, celebrity Chef Nak will share her insights on how to incorporate Cambodian ingredients into major events like wedding receptions.

Chef Nak, a well-known advocate for Khmer cuisine, highlighted the importance of supporting local agricultural products by encouraging the selection of Khmer dishes.

Celebrity and proponent of local produce Chef Nak, who will be appearing at a forum during this weekend's agricultural fair. Chef Nak FB

She plans to discuss market challenges, as well as the huge diversity in Cambodian cooking beyond traditional dishes like prahok.

“This will be a chance to discuss how we can utilise Cambodian ingredients and products for large events, particularly wedding receptions, which are a substantial business in Cambodia," she explained.

She explained that supporting local products not only benefits farmers but also ensures the authenticity and quality of Khmer dishes.

"I hope that the work that I have been doing yields tangible results. This is an incentive to appreciate Khmer food in a new way, making it more valuable and better," Chef Nak told The Post.

“Regarding agriculture, if a country depends heavily on imported products, local farmers suffer due to the lack of market demand, as consumers prefer cheaper foreign products,” she said.

"This is an opportunity for consumers to meet producers and interact with them directly,” she added.

As a lover of Khmer cuisine and with an understanding of the economy, Chef Nak expressed her confidence in locally produced products, noting that imported products often lose quality due to delivery time and other issues. 

She praised the agriculture ministry for organising the event and promoting the use of local products, while also providing an opportunity for manufacturers to showcase their products to consumers.

In the upcoming discussion, she plans to share her experience with the heads of several major catering service companies to encourage the use of more local agricultural products and promote Khmer cuisine. 

"It is time to study the diversity of our cuisine and incorporate more Khmer dishes into these programmes," she said. 

“I am honoured to be invited by the ministry and to be recognised as a promoter of Khmer food,” she added.

She noted that she rarely encounters problems sourcing local ingredients, and cooks local food throughout the country. 

However, she acknowledged that for general consumers, such as restaurants, hotels, and catering companies, finding local ingredients can be challenging because availability varies seasonally, unlike imported products. 

"Farmers often face difficulties in meeting high customer demand due to seasonal farming and isolated production," she said.

Another significant barrier is that crop prices often fall sharply during harvest, making it difficult for farmers to compete with imported products. 

This situation poses difficulties for Cambodian farmers, including the hiring of harvesters and the processing of their crops.

Touch Ratha, owner of Seng Hok Heng Catering, expressed his enthusiasm for participating in the fair and forum. 

He drew attention to the importance of using local agricultural products, noting that it has garnered strong support from customers. 

"This event is an excellent opportunity to promote and support Khmer agriculture, he said.

“I believe this first fair will receive substantial public support and will continue in the coming years,” he added.

Ratha described the fair as more of an opportunity than a challenge, as it brings together producers, growers, breeders and suppliers with operators such as catering services, restaurants and hotels. 

"It is an opportunity to meet, discuss, understand, and learn about the needs, quality, and potential of local agricultural products while also sharing this knowledge widely with the general population as consumers or users," he added.

He told the Post, "The event has broken through past obstacles and provided an opportunity for producers who adhere to food safety and quality standards to reach their full potential”.

Hem Chanthou, senior project officer (Agriculture and Natural Resources) of the ADB Cambodia Resident Mission, noted the progress of the Kingdom’s agriculture, with improvements in the quality, quantity and diversity of products. 

"The ADB supports the agricultural fair as we believe it will facilitate the expansion of domestic agricultural products for the local market," he said.

Chanthou added that agriculture remains a vital sector in Cambodia, accounting for 21.2 per cent of the country's GDP in 2023 and engaging nearly 95 per cent of rural households. 

However, challenges such as limited access to modern technology, financing and climate change vulnerability persist.

He said access to financial services is challenging in rural areas due to the need to provide collateral. Greater financial awareness will help farmers access appropriate and more affordable finance. 

“The ADB, in cooperation with the government and partners, has implemented several projects to support the formation of farmer’s groups or associations with the poorest people as members to help each other,” he added.

The programmes also support agriculture diversification, commercialisation and climate resilient agriculture.

With worsening global climate impacts, Chanthou noted that as a climate bank for Asia and the Pacific, the ADB is significantly increasing climate investment across all sectors, particularly agriculture. 

The ADB is also implementing several projects to help agriculture in Cambodia adapt to climate change and become climate resilient. 

Chanthou said it ensures access to affordable climate technologies, secures green climate financing and enhances agricultural diversification and commercialisation to improve market access for farmers.

“Over the last five years, with other development partners, ADB has financed six investment projects worth over $573 million, helping the Cambodian agriculture sector address climate change impacts and build climate resilience,” said Chanthou. 

He added that the Kingdom needs to continue building the capacity of institutions to integrate climate adaptation into development plans and create supportive policies for agricultural climate adaptation.