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China to fund farming centre

Farmers plant a fresh rice crop in Kampong Cham’s Batheay district in August
Farmers plant a fresh rice crop in Kampong Cham’s Batheay district in August. The Chinese government has agreed to $6.7 million in funding for a new agricultural centre aimed at education and training in an effort to raise production of crops for export. Hong Menea

China to fund farming centre

In a move it says will help Cambodia advance its agricultural sector, the Chinese government has announced its funding of a new agricultural training centre to the tune of $6.7 million.

The agreement to establish the Cambodia-China Agriculture Promotion Center was signed by Ty Sokun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, and Wenwen Luo, chairwoman of the Guangxi Forward Agriculture Technology International Corporation in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

Sokun said the centre would result in improved techniques and skills for Cambodian farmers.

“The goal is to equip farmers with techniques to respond to climate change, use more machinery in the fields, create more resilient crops, and encourage more agricultural goods to be exported,” he said.

Currently, much of Cambodia’s agricultural goods do not meet international standards for foreign buyers, Sokun said yesterday, but thanks to the centre, he added, Cambodian agricultural products would be qualified to enter the global market.

The project includes two phases over an 18-year period, said Nou Vuthy, assistant to the board of directors of Guangxi Forward Agriculture Technology International Corporation Co.

The first phase will last three years and will be entirely funded by the Chinese government, while the second 15-year phase will be funded by the Chinese company.

“During the project, the Center will provide training on farming techniques training for rice, cassava, vegetables and fruit to Cambodia farmers and agronomists, as well as promote Cambodia’s agriculture products to the international market, especially China,” Vuthy said.

The centre is to be based in Phnom Penh and will be located on 12 hectares of land in the city’s northwestern Sen Sok district, while another centre and plantation will be created in Srok Chamkar Leur in Kampong Cham, Vuthy added.

The official launch of both branches of the centre is expected to happen in late February when 12 Chinese agriculture experts will arrive from China to begin the training.

The provinces of Kandal, Kampong Cham, Prey Veng, Kampong Speu, Siem Reap, Takeo and Kampong Chnang are to be targeted for agricultural education program.

Cambodia’s agricultural sector, which constituted 34 per cent of its GDP in 2013 according to the World Bank, has received significant international attention in recent days.

The European Union announced on Tuesday the allocation of $510 million over a six year period to Cambodia, partly aimed at improving agricultural and natural resource management.

On the same day, the US Agency for International Development pledged an additional $43.5 million in funding to the Cambodian health, environment, and agricultural sectors.

Of the total, $17.9 million will go towards agriculture, economic opportunity, and environmental protection as part of US President Barack Obama’s Feed the Future and Global Climate Change Initiatives.

Srey Chanthy, independent economist, said he welcomed the Chinese training centre as Cambodian farmers had long suffered from a lack of access to proper training.

He added that China was pursuing its own interests as well.

“While helping Cambodia to grow its agricultural sector, China will also be able to diversify its food supply from other countries in the region.”

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