Cambodia formally exported 8.6 million tonnes of agricultural products to 74 markets last year worth nearly $5 billion, up 7.8 per cent from the 7.9 million tonnes booked in 2021, as agriculture contributed 22.2 per cent of the Kingdom’s 2022 gross domestic product (GDP), according to Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina.

Included in the export total were 637,000 tonnes of milled rice, up 3.23 per cent from 617,000 tonnes in 2021, and 5.78 million tonnes of non-rice agricultural products, up from 5.01 million tonnes in 2021, Tina noted at his ministry’s annual meeting, according to a statement issued in conjunction with the event.

These figures suggest that formal rice agricultural exports that were not included in the “milled” total (mainly paddy) fell in the range of 2.127-2.163 million tonnes – accounting for rounding – compared to 2.295-2.329 million tonnes in 2021. Virtually all formal paddy exports tend to be shipped to neighbouring Vietnam.

For comparison, the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body earlier put the 2022 paddy export total at 3.4 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, crop production reached 34.71 million tonnes, broken down into the categories of horticultural (4.42 million tonnes), industrial (18.67 million tonnes) and rice (11.62 million tonnes), the last of which represented a surplus of 6.29 million tonnes, Tina added.

The ministry has been “responsibly” working to accelerate development of the agricultural sector, as prescribed in the Rectangular Strategy Phase IV and National Policy for Agricultural Development 2022-2030, he assured in the statement.

To enhance crop cultivation capacity and ensure food security and sustainable development in 2023, the ministry has adopted strategies geared towards – inter alia – energy and cost efficiency, modern technologies and methods, the use of genetically-pure seeds, production support infrastructure, low-interest loans, contract farming, networking among growers, and commercialisation, he added.

For reference, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently estimated the 2022 nominal GDP for Cambodia at $28.330 billion, thus offering a ballpark approximation for agriculture’s contribution at $6.274-6.304 billion.

Speaking to The Post on March 29, Sok Yorn, vice-president of the Siem Reap province-based Cambodia Safe Fish, Meat and Vegetables Association (CSFMVA), commented that the uptick in agricultural exports is indicative of improvements across the underlying supply chains – including in cultivation, care, harvesting, cleaning and packaging – to the desired standards of importing countries.

Greater export volumes will translate into the development of value-added agriculture, allowing farmers to capture larger proportions of the value of their crops, he contended.

“Apart from earning Cambodia more revenue, it [the boom in exports] is also a source of pride for the Cambodian agricultural sector,” he said.

However, he noted, one persistent issue confronting the sector is the amount of vegetables, fish, meats and other produce that is brought into the Kingdom – legally and illegally – by traders.

In a recent interview with The Post, Hun Lak, CEO of Rich Farm Asia Ltd, a major local agricultural exporter, remarked that sectoral productivity has been on a constant uptrend as of late amid increases in the quality and quantity of agricultural exports, underpinned by government policies, particularly those targeting food security and international sales capacity.

Other drivers of agricultural exports include the transport sector and government efforts to open new markets through diplomatic ties as well as bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements (FTA), he argued, asserting that Cambodian agricultural exports will remain on an upward growth trajectory for the foreseeable future.

An FTA is an international treaty between two or more economies designed to reduce or eliminate certain barriers to imports and exports among them, generally while safeguarding safety, security, health and other legitimate regulatory objectives. Such a pact can also serve to facilitate and promote greater economic ties among signatories in areas such as investment and intellectual property protection.

Lak affirmed that the number of companies investing in local agriculture and agro-industry is on the rise.

Agriculture ministry statistics indicate that Cambodia exported nearly $4.92 billion worth of agricultural products in 2021 – $3.958 billion and $0.959 billion with and without certification, respectively. These and the latest numbers shared by the minister put the mean value of the 2021 agricultural exports in the range of 61.836-62.036 US cents per kilogramme.