Cambodia exported 5.93 million tonnes of agricultural products to 90 countries and territories in the first nine months of this year, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported on October 14.
Vietnam topped the list of buyers accounting for 64.11 per cent of the exports (3.8 million tonnes), followed by Thailand at 21.49 per cent (1.3 million tonnes) and China at 9.69 per cent (around 575,000 tonnes). The remaining 4.71 per cent (just under 280,000 tonnes) were sold to the remaining 87 markets.
For reference, an earlier ministry report indicated that Cambodia exported more than 13 million tonnes of agricultural products last year, valued at $3.433 billion.
Without providing figures, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon told The Post on October 14 that sales of agricultural merchandise to the top three buyers “have increased”, on the back of rising production in Cambodia and improved transportation systems to neighbouring countries.
Exports to China were further fuelled by the East Asian country’s strong trade ties with the Cambodia, he noted.
He explained, however, that even though Cambodia and China had signed a free trade agreement (FTA), further technical negotiations would be required to lift additional phytosanitary barriers.
On the other hand, Sakhon said the ministry is working to encourage the domestic agro-industry to add more value to exports and curtail outward migration of Cambodians, in what he termed a “life-or-death matter” for the agricultural sector.
He pointed out that investors’ actions would have a considerable bearing on the sector’s economic performance, a consideration that in part prompted the government to draw up a new investment law to woo more potential investors.
At the same time, the government has been trying to increase capital investment in supporting infrastructure – such as water, electricity, roads and ports – to serve the harvesting, storage, processing and transport of goods, and ensure that the supply chain remains competitive with neighbouring and regional countries, he noted.
Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath underlined that their proximity to Cambodia makes trade and goods exchange with Vietnam, Thailand and China easier and less time consuming compared to more distant destinations, putting them at the top of the list of importers of Cambodian agricultural products.
Neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam in particular are key trading partners for Cambodia that offer convenient export destinations, much like the bordering US states are to Canada, he suggested.
He pointed out that Thailand and Vietnam have larger export volumes and more advanced agro-industries than Cambodia, and that purchases of Cambodian agricultural raw materials predominantly feed these sectors.
But even with processing plants, Cambodian cannot ship agricultural produce to China without reaching a phytosanitary agreement for the specific item, he said.
Sereyvath echoed the minister’s comment that the FTA with China would not grant access to a wide spectrum of agricultural products without first negotiating a phytosanitary protocol that conforms to Chinese standards.
And as the ministry’s director-general for Agriculture Ngin Chhay previously noted, Chinese authorities only consider a single product per country at a time to import.