A group of Chinese businessmen on May 10 met with the agriculture minister to express interest in investing in Cambodia’s coffee production and processing sector, with plans to supply both domestic and foreign markets.

At the meeting, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon welcomed and supported the potential investment, which he said would spur Cambodian coffee production and meet the needs of the export market, according to a statement posted on his official Facebook page.

“Coffee production has potential in Mondulkiri province, and [hopefully] there is an opportunity to study favourable production conditions and meet with the coffee community, if possible, [to discuss] cooperation between these companies and the community on agricultural production through contract farming,” Sakhon said in the statement.

He also asked the delegation to study the potential of both freshwater and marine aquaculture to be used in production chains and export processes.

Ngin Chhay, director-general of the agriculture ministry’s General Directorate of Agriculture, told The Post that the Chinese investors had expressed intention to import the Mondulkiri province coffee crop due to its high quality and decent taste, which meant that it could be supplied to national and international markets.

He noted that the Chinese delegation expressed its intention to import Cambodian coffee seeds and bring in a number of Chinese varieties, which they said have potential to do well in international markets. Chhay added that the delegation was looking into establishing a factory to process these coffee products for export.

“We do have potential, but at the moment we have not fully fulfilled it,” he said. “If big companies invest in Cambodia’s coffee cultivation and processing, we will be famous in the international coffee market, and no longer have products that are seen as inferior to those of Vietnam and Thailand.”

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath said that significant capital investment was needed in the Kingdom’s agricultural sector, including coffee, because cultivation in this sector was not sufficiently technically advanced.

Foreign investments will likely lead to use of better technology in the sector, leading to increased productivity and improved product quality, he said.

Sereyvath highlighted that Cambodia’s coffee production has potential to attract and sustain long-term investment, especially in the red-earth region encompassing Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces, but that such production has been hindered by the Kingdom leasing the land to a Vietnamese company to cultivate.

If Cambodia can afford to be more self-subsistent in the sector, it will stand to benefit significantly, he said, and this could be achieved through Chinese and other foreign investment.

“Chinese companies investing in agriculture, such as coffee, are being quite welcomed, and rightly so. Plus, when Chinese companies come to invest, it will fit well with the China free trade agreement, which allows us to import agricultural products to China strategically,” he said.

An agriculture ministry report shows that in 2021, Cambodia produced a total of 675 tonnes of coffee beans, a more than 28 per cent decrease compared to the 940 tonnes logged in 2020.