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Unused concessions hinder agriculture, companies say

Unused concessions hinder agriculture, companies say

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Workers pour freshly tapped rubber in Kampong Cham province earlier this week. While the agriculture sector is expanding, some say the government should act on unused concessions.

We think the government should have a mechanism to closely follow up in order to confiscate undeveloped land

The Ministry of Agriculture ought to hold meetings every two years with land concession owners to accelerate their investments or risk having the concessions revoked, according to Leng Rithy, Director of the Vietnamese Rubber Enterprise Federation in Cambodia.

Hundreds of firms have obtained government land concessions, but too few actually follow through with investing, he said yesterday.

“We hope the Ministry can evaluate progress on projects that have been granted government land concessions, and encourage the companies to complete them,” he said.

He added government officials should consider revoking land concessions from companies who did not use them.

Prominent agriculture businessman Mong Reththy said government representatives and companies with concessions do not have regularly scheduled meetings at present, which proves to be an obstacle in pushing  investment.

“I support the request, because I believe direct meetings can provide a positive resolution for all of us,” he said, adding he felt meetings could be held as often as quarterly rather than every two years.

From 1993 to 2009, the government provided concessions totalling 1,335,724 hectares to 126 companies to invest in agro-business. However, a Ministry report from last year states that development was actually taking place on 956,690 hectares by 85 companies.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay claimed that nearly half of concession holders were not developed by companies as required in their contracts.

“We think the government should have a mechanism to closely follow up in order to confiscate undeveloped land, to avoid losing national benefit,” he said.

Discussions with the Ministry of Agriculture would not be a concern for private companies that actually intend to invest, he said.

Regular meetings would provide information to the ministry, so it “can understand clearly what is going on, and decide whether the company can keep the land to develop, or should have concessions withdrawn.”

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Secretary of State Chan Tong Yves did not discuss plans to for meetings with private companies when contacted yesterday.

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