The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on January 21 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with three companies geared towards the production of a minimum of 400 tonnes of additional vegetables per year to supply the domestic market and ship abroad.
The signatory companies of the MoU, entitled “Agriculture 4.0 and Greenhouse Cooperation: Transforming Farmers to Agropreneurs”, were listed in a post on agriculture minister Veng Sakhon’s Facebook page as Agri-Sambathkhmer Co Ltd, PLMP Venture Capital Co Ltd and ISBP Group-Sun Business Investment Globe Co Ltd.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Sakhon said the establishment of this public-private partnership conforms to the “public-private-development partners and community” approach, according to the post.
The MoU is designed to promote and enhance the vegetable value chain, in accordance with the Cambodian Good Agricultural Practices (Cam-GAP) and pertinent standards, to ensure supply, quality and safety, as well as to increase the productivity, diversification and commercialisation of agriculture, the minister said.
He confidently stated that the MoU would be of mutual benefit to all parties involved, in building partnerships, developing vegetable production and value chains to be sustainable, prosperous, inclusive, competitive, climate change resilient and innovative.
In particular, the memorandum will contribute to the implementation of the ministry’s strategic plan to improve the productivity and diversification of safe vegetables, or those free of microbiological hazards with a reduced dependence on chemicals, he said.
The deal will also enhance processing, value added product development and other components of the vegetable production chain, and improve their competitive position in domestic and foreign markets, as well as create employment opportunities and increase incomes, he added.
“This mechanism will also play a part in the resolution of the challenges that farmers face and improving production capacity to meet market demand, to turn farmers into ‘agropreneurs’ for them to acclimate to the Roadmap for Food Systems for Sustainable Development by 2030 and Agricultural Development Policy 2021-2030.
“Furthermore, it is in line with the Royal Government’s vision to modernise agriculture to be more competitive, inclusive, climate change resilient and sustainable, to increase incomes and improve the wellbeing of the people,” he said.
The minister said the MoU requires all parties to work together to build 10,000 Agriculture 4.0 greenhouses over the next 10 years that are to produce at least 400 tonnes of crops a year.
The deal will provide a safe and sustainable supply to the local market, as well as lead to production contracts with communities and international market actors, he added.
PLMP Venture Capital investment manager Dem Dina told The Post on January 24 that the greenhouses outlined in the MoU would employ state-of-the-art technologies developed in Israel.
He noted that six additional companies were initially intended to be included in the partnership, each with their respective roles, but that the ministry later changed its mind.
Additionally, Cambodian students will be sent to Israel for an 11-month training course under the deal, after which they are to work on the project, he said.
“The project will focus on the domestic market first – it [production] won’t yet be enough for the external market – but maybe in two years we can export,” Dina said.
He noted that safe vegetables are in vogue in the Kingdom, with tonnes of produce ordered from supermarkets nationwide.
Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath told The Post on January 24, that it is high time for the Kingdom to modernise its agricultural sector, saying it would soon be impossible to continue farming in the traditional ways.
The introduction of the Agriculture 4.0 greenhouses would revamp Cambodia’s agricultural sector by offering better protection against bacteria and pests, and leveraging organic production processes to achieve higher added value, he said.
On the other hand, he called for the creation of more farmer clusters, so that companies cannot take undue advantage of individual growers, he added. “Vegetable farms in each area that grow similar crops need to be organised to create more supply.”
Although the MoU offers a welcome contribution to Cambodian agriculture, more needs to be done to curb imports and resolve the myriad issues plaguing the sector, Sereyvath suggested.
“As for the annual 400 tonnes of vegetables to be produced [under the MoU], this is but a minute portion considering that we import hundreds of tonnes every day,” he said.