Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon has said he wants to see all the ministries that have overlapping duties in the agricultural sector merged.
Speaking exclusively to The Post, he said the Kingdom’s agriculture sector faces many challenges and that a systematic solution is required to address them, including stakeholder engagement. Hence, merging the key ministries is the best decision and should occur in the future.
“In the past, we thought that by having more [ministries], they could help each other. But as each ministry is separate and works individually, the workflow is not sequential and [cannot] answer to market demands,” he said.
Sakhon said that Cambodia’s agricultural sector is now producing food to maintain food security and drive economic growth. This requires specific policies and a common working system to improve efficiency.
“In the past we could work [separately] because we merely tried to solve food security issues. However, at this current stage, there is a need for a stronger focus on market responses and economic growth."
“So we have to make comprehensive considerations. Before planting any crop, we need to know how big the market is and how to prepare standard stockpiles. So we need to work in unison to reach the market,” he said.
While Sakhon did not specify which ministries should merge, he invoked examples of successful agricultural nations that merged three government agencies – the ministries of rural development, water resources and meteorology, and agriculture.
Government agencies’ disagreements in solving agricultural problems are often raised when problems persist. For example, when farmers raise the issue of falling prices, government agencies often push responsibility to each other.
Agricultural expert Yang Saing Koma, who is also the chairman of the Grassroots Democratic Party’s board of directors, on Tuesday said the idea of consolidating the institutions for agricultural efficiency reflected reality.
“We have many ministries and many officials, but there is low efficiency. If we do not reform, our agricultural sector will remain behind other [nations],” he said.
Ministry of Rural Development spokesman Chan Darong on Tuesday said a decision as to whether to merge the ministries must be made at the government level. But he stressed that the role of the Ministry of Rural Development is still important for rural economic development.
He said while rural roads currently total 45,000km, only a small fraction have been paved. This needs the ministry’s hand in developing the roads to ease the farmers’ living standards and empower their businesses.
“The way we have different ministries, they must carry out multiple tasks simultaneously to provide good services to people in rural areas."
“The Ministry of Rural Development currently plays an important role in contributing to economic development and promoting people’s living standards,” he said.