High electricity prices, underdeveloped transport infrastructure and lofty logistics costs, inadequate irrigation systems, limited access to finance and high interest rates, value-added tax (VAT) and lax controls on aquaculture imports are just some of the lingering concerns plaguing the Kingdom's agriculture industry.
The Government-Private Sector Forum's Working Group A met virtually on June 9 to discuss the issues and explore possible resolutions, with the express goal of spurring domestic production and enhancing competitiveness on international markets.
Present at the meeting was Working Group A co-chair Mong Rithy, representatives of the Cambodian Aquaculturist Association and Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association (CLRA), as well as many agribusinesses and agro-industrialists.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng stressed the importance of the dialogue towards stimulating local agricultural and agro-industrial production.
He told The Post on June 10 that many hurdles remain for the private sector, even after previous government steps towards the solution of other conundrums facing the community. And these challenges are now further aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, he added
"All of these setbacks will be submitted to the agriculture ministry to help solve, and if the ministry is unable to riddle them out, we'll address them at another forum between the government and the private sector under the judgement of the prime minister," Heng said.
CLRA director Srun Pov said the meeting was a crucial tool for the private sector to provide the government with an up-to-date picture of their plight, to more effectively tackle the various quandaries they are grappling with.
He said the livestock community's main requests to the government were to turn a temporary waiver of VAT on livestock production into a permanent one, to take clear control measures for animals entering the country that are susceptible to certain diseases, and to curb imports of poultry and aquaculture items that hurt domestic producers.
He pointed out that more than 50,000 tonnes of aquaculture fish remain unsold among the CLRA's members.
"[Solving] these challenges is essential to ensuring the stability of the domestic market, as well as to encourage locals to ramp up production and to greatly reduce international migration for work," Pov said.
When the local livestock sector is chugging along nicely, not only are farmers' needs being met, but they are able to crank out more of the various ingredients used for animal feed.
Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) chairman Hun Lak stressed that the private sector was not seeking handouts.
He echoed Heng's comment that problems persist even after numerous government actions taken to smoothen out many of the snags hindering agriculture.
On the other hand, he appreciated the government intervention, saying it would "more or less help those in agriculture and agro-industry sectors”, adding that the private sector would not go to the government for additional help if there were no pressing issues.
Last year, the Kingdom produced more than 20 million tonnes of agricultural products, of which it exported more than 13 million tonnes and earned over $3.433 billion, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Cambodia sold 3,584,780 tonnes of rice – paddy and milled – worth more than $1.26 billion last year, it said.
CRF's Lak added: “When production goes well, export capacity will increase further."