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Smoother path for agro exports

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An employee stacks rice in an export storage facility earlier this year in Phnom Penh before it is transported abroad. Vireak Mai

Smoother path for agro exports

The ministry of Agriculture plans to establish five regional food safety inspection offices near the country’s borders to facilitate the flow of cross-border agricultural trade, reducing the time it takes Cambodian exporters to deliver shipments of agricultural products to foreign markets, a ministry official has said.

The new regional offices would inspect export shipments of food and agricultural products, ensuring that they comply with Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) protocols and issuing certificates required by foreign purchasers. The inspections could eventually include imports as well.

Hean Vanhorn, deputy director general of the General Directorate of Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, said the new SPS offices would ensure that agricultural products leaving the country are free of pests, diseases, toxins or contaminants. The offices would include laboratories, fumigation equipment and quarantine facilities.

The five locations that have been suggested are in Battambang, Svay Rieng, Kampong Cham, Mondulkiri and Preah Sihanouk provinces, according to Vanhorn.

The new regional SPS offices would “facilitate exports, control the [health and safety] risks, and strengthen pest control”, he said.

“Exporters would be able to apply for SPS certificates online at these branches.”

Currently, exporters of food and agricultural products are required to send samples of their consignments to designated laboratories in Phnom Penh for inspection and certification.

The transport time and backlog can cause inconvenience and economic losses, they say.

“We spend a lot of time having shipments inspected for pests at the ministry, so it would help us a lot for exporting if there were SPS inspection offices near the borders,” said Moul Sarith, acting secretary general of the Cambodia Rice Federation, an industry body representing the nation’s rice exporters.

Decentralising SPS inspection and certification would facilitate trade and reduce costs for exporters, he said.

Mong Reththy, president of Mong Reththy Group and co-chairman of the government-private sector working group on agriculture, said the regional SPS offices should be positioned near the main border crossings for agricultural exports.

“It’s very difficult for agricultural producers who, when they want to export vegetables, must first bring them to the Agriculture Ministry in Phnom Penh and then return back the same way to export across the border,” he said.

“[The delay] increases the risk of the produce spoiling.”

Srey Chanthy, an independent economic analyst, said creating regional SPS offices was a sound strategy for promoting agricultural exports – provided the inspectors follow procedures.

“It can save time and money,” he said. “Shipments travel in just one direction for inspection and export.”

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