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Minister heralds Chinese agri investments

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Agriculture minister Veng Sakhon (fourth right) and Li Zhonghua (sixth left) at a meeting on agricultural cooperation on Monday. VENG SAKHON VIA FACEBOOK

Minister heralds Chinese agri investments

Chinese investment in Cambodia will bolster the production and export of fruits and other agricultural produce and shore up the development of sustainable value chains, according to Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon.

A post on Sakhon’s Facebook page on January 17 noted that the minister made the remark earlier that day at a meeting on agricultural cooperation with a company identified only as “Hualong”.

The Ministry of Commerce’s business registry shows three companies named “Hualong” – Hualong Ji Tuan SHV Sand Field Co Ltd, Hualong Tou Zi Ji Tuan (Cambodia) Co Ltd, and Hualong Jianshe Fa Zhan (Cambodia) Co Ltd – all of which were incorporated in 2019 and have “Li Zhonghua” listed as director and chairman.

The minister said a “comprehensive strategic partnership” established between the two countries has allured a host of Chinese investors to Cambodian agriculture, as stated in the post.

Sakhon commented that a different firm, named “Hun Ty”, had invested in an 80ha agro-industrial centre that features a market and displays of agricultural goods, as well as cold storage, pest-control and packaging facilities for fruits such as mangoes, longan, bananas and coconuts, as well as aquaculture products.

The minister had previously said Hun Ty was set up in 2017 by Antony Wang, whom Sakhon identified as an investor hailing from mainland China. The business registry indicates that Hun Ty Co Ltd – which has Wang listed as director and chairman – was incorporated in 2014.

“Comprehensive cooperation between the two governments will afford investors, farmers, plantation owners and traders the opportunity to expand their production, processing and export potential in line with the ‘new normal’, with the agriculture ministry on standby to lend a hand to ensure that investments are successful,” he said.

The post noted that Chinese companies have invested in loads of other similar agriculture- and aquaculture-related projects involving commercial and exhibition spaces, as well as processing, packaging, pest-control and sanitation facilities.

These investments aim to develop the Cambodian agricultural sector, and to ensure an adequate supply of exports and guarantee that they are up to quality, safety and other pertinent standards, the post cited an unnamed male director of “Hualong” – most likely “Li Zhonghua” – as saying.

The director said he hopes that Chinese investment in the Kingdom will provide a meaningful boost in the presence of Cambodian agricultural produce on the international market, especially in China.

A July 25, 2020 report on the Ministry of National Defence’s webpage identified Li as a director of China Railway 18th Bureau Group (Cambodia) Co Ltd, and a comparison with images released by the agriculture ministry on January 17 confirms that he was present at the event.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post that the government has chosen to pursue agriculture as the mainstay of the economy, in light of the Covid-19 crisis.

He underscored that investment in the sector would be key to restore the economy and create growth momentum over the coming years.

If the Kingdom intends to draw in appreciable numbers of foreign investors, it is imperative that it tackle a host of issues to really amplify its appeal and smooth relevant processes, he said, identifying agricultural land, irrigation systems, human resources, logistics and electricity prices as priority areas.

“The new Law on Investment is already in place, along with bilateral and regional free trade agreements, and the provided mechanisms will all serve to catch the fancy of investors – Chinese and Cambodian ones above all – after the Covid-19 situation eases,” he said.

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