A key upcoming nine-year agricultural development roadmap is set to spearhead the industry’s next phase of evolution, to maximise quality and sustainable yields, investment, research impact and exports, and improve the livelihoods, wellbeing and empowerment of smallholder farmers and all actors in the ecosystem, according to stakeholders and observers.

The Council of Ministers, or Cabinet, announced that a September 9 plenary session led by Prime Minister Hun Sen approved the draft National Policy for Agricultural Development 2022-2030.

The draft law will now be sent to the National Assembly (NA) for a vote. If approved, the document will be forwarded to the Senate for review, after which it will be returned to the NA to proceed with a signature from the King – or acting head of state – to become law.

The council said in a statement that the national policy was designed to promote growth in the sector, underpinned by measures to increase productivity, diversification and agricultural commercialisation that also create and promote competitive advantages.

The policy aims to ensure food security and nutrition along with the availability of safe, high-quality goods, with utmost regard for the sustainable management of resources.

It described the instrument as a key guide for stakeholders to develop more specific action plans to turn the agricultural trade into a modern, competitive, inclusive, climate change resilient and sustainable sector that can increase the incomes of farming households, and promote prosperity and wellbeing among Cambodians.

The document also seeks to modernise and commercialise agricultural value chains, increase public and private investment in the sector, implement institutional reform and tackle other inter-sectoral issues, it added.

Speaking to The Post on September 11, Lim Heng, vice-president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce and prominent businessman in the agricultural scene, voiced optimism that the policy would not only accelerate development in the sector, but also garner ample support from investors, farmers and researchers.

“Since the advent of Covid-19, the Royal Government of Cambodia has considered agriculture an important part of the Cambodian economy. By laying out such a policy, the government will attract greater and more specific attention from the agriculture ministry’s experts to crop production, leading to more investment in the sector,” he said.

Once implemented, the policy will draw in more foreign investors into the sector, and growth in agricultural exports will be fuelled by Cambodia’s free trade agreements, including separate bilateral deals with China and South Korea as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that the policy will transform Cambodian agriculture from a traditional system to a modern regime, as part of a broader series of new agricultural development initiatives prompted by the emergence of local, regional and global markets.

“The policies and procedures that the government has put in place to boost agricultural productivity not only enable Cambodia to ensure reliable access to necessities, but also help it collect revenue from international markets as well,” he said, referring to exports.

According to the General Directorate of Agriculture, Cambodia exported 5,035,425.25 tonnes of agricultural products in the first half of 2022, marking an increase of 581,374.40 tonnes or 13.05 per cent from the 4,454,050 tonnes recorded in the same time last year, ministry figures show.

With a total value in excess of $2.196 billion, based on exporters’ invoices, the exports went to 65 countries and territories.