The Cambodia Pepper and Spices Federation (CPSF), in collaboration with USAID-funded Feed the Future Cambodia Harvest II project (Harvest II), on September 20 virtually launched the “Export Mission to the Middle East and North Africa” programme.

The programme aims to leverage emerging digital technologies to engage local businesses and provide them with assistance and specific expertise, to upgrade and expand the domestic capacity for safe-food production and establish a market presence in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.

CPSF president Mak Ny told The Post on September 21 that under the new project, 25 agriculture-based businesses – including 10 peppercorn exporters – had been selected to participate in this month’s edition of the Organic Digital Trade Expo from September 28-29.

The expo is linked to the in-person Middle East Organic and Natural Products Expo scheduled to be held from December 6-8 in UAE business hub Dubai.

Ny presented the event as the “first” major chance for Cambodia to showcase its products to a Mena audience, saying that it offers business networking opportunities with prospective buyers, distributors, exporters and other partners in the region.

“It is a great opportunity for Cambodia’s agricultural sector to seek out, or carve out, and penetrate new markets in Mena. Working directly with the government, CPSF will promote Cambodia’s agricultural products on the global market and support economic development,” he said.

Under the programme, the 25 businesses will share the Cambodia Pavilion at the event and exhibit their wares to more than 32,000 online participants, as well as conduct other digital campaigns that target Mena consumers, he added.

Harvest II chief of party Nimish Jhaveri said: “This will be the first time 25 SMEs [small- and medium-sized enterprises] from Cambodia’s horticulture sector will be presenting their products and capabilities to commercial buyers and exploring export opportunities in the region.”

Horticulture is a branch of agriculture that generally deals with the intensive commercial cultivation of high-value plants for food, medicinal ingredients or ornamental purposes. Horticulture farming as a rule sits between domestic gardening and field agriculture, in terms of scale.

Jhaveri added: “As Cambodian companies [become more aware] of international market requirements, many have adopted new standards of product quality, packaging and safety for customers and are building new export capabilities into their organisations.”

At a launch ceremony for the programme, Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Seang Thay lauded the CPSF for its export initiatives and use of industry 4.0-linked information technology to achieve those ends, saying the programme is consistent with ministry-implemented trade promotion activities aimed at propping up Cambodian products.

He hopes the project will form a bridge to cement pepper and spice trade relations between traders in the Kingdom and those in Mena, and lay the groundwork for similar initiatives in the future that seek to build the reputation of Cambodian peppercorn on the international stage.

As Cambodia gains improved access to more markets, domestic producers and exporters must pay greater attention to the quality, safety, affordability and hygiene aspects of their goods and the aesthetic appeal of packaging to entice more buyers and consumers into supporting additional Cambodian products, Thay cautioned.

Hun Lak, CEO of Rich Farm Asia Ltd, one of the 25 businesses, noted that his company grows fruits and vegetables and processes agricultural products for export, mentioning China as a destination.

Showing an interest in the “rich and unique” Mena market, Lak decided to get in on the action, acclaiming the CPSF-Harvest II partnership as “the best we have ever seen”.

“We must do our best to make sure Cambodian products are recognised by the countries in the Mena region,” he said.

Hor Davy, a representative from Confirel Co Ltd, another agricultural producer-cum-exporter, was eager for a shot at displaying products to a Mena audience and forging new business relationships, commenting that the region holds huge market potential.

“Our company has never had the experience of exporting its products to Mena, and we truly hope that, through this programme, we’ll be able to bring our company’s wares, as well as the goods of other Cambodian companies, into the countries of the Mena region and better acquaint them with the Kingdom’s offerings,” she said.