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Report shows growth for agriculture, but sector still faces hurdles

Children help out in a field in Kampong Speu province in 2015.
Children help out in a field in Kampong Speu province in 2015. Victoria Mørck Madsen

Report shows growth for agriculture, but sector still faces hurdles

The total export of agricultural products rose to 5.13 million tonnes last year, up from 4.7 million tonnes the year before, a sign that the sector was on the right track according to Agriculture Minister Veng Sokhon.

Speaking on Monday at the release of the ministry’s 2017 annual report, Sokhon said that while farming in Cambodia had seen remarkable growth in the past few years, more work needed to be done to increase exports, ensure crops were processed in the country and increase compliance with health and safety standards.

“Our sector still faces a lot of challenges, and we need to discuss and seek the solutions in order to match with the government policy on the developing agriculture sector,” the minister said. “How do we intervene to increase productivity, quality, and safety in order to respond to market needs?”

Rice exports grew by 17.3 percent to reach 635,697 tonnes last year, while rubber also expanded by 30.14 percent to reach 188,832 tonnes, according to the report.

Widespread smuggling continues to account for much of the country’s agricultural trade. More than 40 percent of Cambodia’s rice exports go through informal channels according to a recent UN estimate, while rubber plantations and processing companies have complained that small-scale farmers get higher prices for their crops by selling to Vietnamese brokers instead of complying with Cambodia’s tax laws.

Sokhon did not mention smuggling in his speech on Monday.

The export of cashew nuts grew 20 percent last year to 87,853 tonnes according to statistics provided by the ministry, although information about the cashew sector was not included in the report.

The government announced a plan in January to export 1 million tonnes of cashews by 2028 with the help of the Vietnamese government, but no plans have been released about how that target would be reached.

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