The Green Rich company has announced that it will invest US$9 million in Koh Kong province to grow acacia trees for export to China and Indonesia for the production of paper.
The company, which will eventually operate on 10,000 hectares of land in the province’s Koh Kong district, intends to plant more than 2.8 million trees, said Pich Ratana, Green Rich’s public relations manager.
“We hope [to] fulfill the market demand for paper,” he said Thursday, and added that the company expects to begin exporting wood in 2014.
Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries lauded the plan as a means to create jobs and increase national revenue. “The government supports the business of growing this kind of tree because it helps sustain the environment,” said Kith Seng, an undersecretary of state at the ministry.
Although the government supports its project, Green Rich’s dealings in Cambodia have not been without controversy.
In 2005, the legality of Green Rich’s operations in Cambodia was questioned by environmental NGOs that said the company was violating its contract with the government and had failed to assess the environmental impact of establishing an acacia plantation.
Labour conditions under Green Rich were also sharply criticised in a report, “The death of the forests: A report on Wuzhishan’s and Green Rich’s tree plantation activities in Cambodia”, by the group World Rainforest Movement.
Pich Ratana said Thursday, however, that Green Rich’s investment complied with government regulations and is in line with the Agriculture Ministry’s replanting scheme. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SETH MEIXNER