Cambodia and South Korea are looking to set up a Food TASK Center (FTC) in the Kingdom to improve food production and curb imports, after Seoul ratified a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) between two countries, setting the stage for broader economic integration underpinned by preferential commercial arrangements.

Progress on the FTC, which is under the Technology Advice and Solutions from Korea (TASK) programme, was discussed on October 17 at a second official meeting between Minister of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation Cham Prasidh and Kim

Young-chan, a project manager at the Korea Food Research Institute (KFRI), the industry ministry said in a statement.

At the meeting held at the industry ministry, Kim said the FTC would give the Cambodian food industry a leg up to compete at the global level, beefing up capacity in the processing segment in terms of research and development (R&D), science, technology and innovation, according to the statement.

The long-term goals of the 56-month project – to be implemented from May 2023 to end-2027 – are to establish a central set of rules and structures to guide development of the food industry as well as a system of controls and inspections to ensure quality and safety of food and facilities at local businesses, and to ensure that small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in the sector are technologically competitive, he added.

The statement estimated the size of the Cambodian food market at “about $8 billion” in 2018, and projected the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) at 7.1 per cent until 2023.

It said that 37 per cent of all companies are food enterprises, with 95 per cent of these SMEs, notably limiting the sector’s competitiveness.

“Because of these factors, local manufacturers are more dependent on imports and larger global export companies are taking over the market. Therefore, Cambodia needs various assistance programmes to strengthen the competitiveness of local businesses,” it added.

As for the buildings to house the FTC, the minister proposed two options. The first is to use the two seven-storey buildings of the General Department of Science, Technology and Innovation and National Institute of Science, Technology and Innovation, which the statement notes “one building is fully used and the other is partially used”.

The second, especially if the budget allows for an industrial facility, is to construct a new building on unoccupied land on the same plot, with the possibility of using any part of the aforementioned two buildings to ensure that the project gets off the ground quickly.

The statement noted that space for offices, equipment, training courses, and potentially the industrial facility would be required.

Kim welcomed both options and vowed to complete the necessary tasks as soon as possible.

Cham Prasidh expects the FTC project to take shape soon, pending a decision by the Korean parliament at the end of 2022.