US Ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy on Thursday vowed to improve access to finance to US institutions for the Kingdom’s exporters, producers and small and medium-sized enterprises.
He was speaking to the press at the two-day trade exhibition, “Business Opportunities in Agriculture” which was held in Phnom Penh from February 6-7.
Fifteen major US agricultural and technology companies attended the event.
Also present were a number of local businesspeople who recognise the vast untapped potential of the Kingdom’s agricultural sector, but note that limited access to finance hinder their exports to the US market.
Murphy said the embassy had developed an initiative addressing the issue through the US departments of Commerce and Agriculture and the US Trade and Development Agency.
The US Import-Export Bank (Exim) has agreed to development finance cooperation, he said.
“Cambodia has barely tapped these resources [US institutions] and I see my role as ambassador is to try and help educate people here about these opportunities and encourage Cambodian producers, companies, small and medium enterprises to pursue this kind of opportunity which will provide guarantee, provide coverage and insurance for access to the equity that they need to grow.
“And, I am convinced that there is no way but up because Cambodia in tapping these resources will find stronger linkages to the American companies that can come here.
“Major rice producers and exporters can get loan guarantees from the US Import-Export bank which will give them access to private equity lending, give them the capability to purchase some of the highest-tech silos to store their rice in outstanding condition, climate control, pest control.
“[Use of] first in, first out technology will continue to grow and allow Cambodia to increase rice exports.
“We are convinced that we can see much and much more exporters here from Cambodia,” said Murphy.
In May 2018, local rice exporter and leading organic paddy producer Amru Rice (Cambodia) Co Ltd became the Kingdom’s first exporter to receive an Exim-backed loan.
The $345,400 loan was disbursed by Connecticut-headquartered Atrafin LLC for the purchase of a 3,000-tonne storage system from Scafco Corp, which is based in Washington state.
Amru Rice founder and CEO Song Saran told The Post on Thursday that the purchase was aimed to improve the company’s production line to meet the US’ high import standards, build confidence, reduce costs and raising competitiveness to gain footing in the US market.
“The US market presents quite the potential opportunity for us, now and in the future.
“Meanwhile, many other US companies have overlooked our untapped potential, to invest in the processing and packaging sectors and export back to the US – Cambodia currently lacks in packaging and processing.
“I do hope that the US businessmen attending the event will invest here in the near future after they see the high potential of our products, which are of high quality – in line with US standards,” he said.
Joseph Ow Yong, a senior sales executive at Earth imaging data provider Planet Labs Inc which currently has 140 active satellites, said the company was eyeing business opportunities in Cambodia’s agricultural sector.
“Currently, we don’t have a presence in Cambodia although we do have an office in Singapore. However, we are actually assisting the market in Asean, Japan and India.
“As far as what we are trying to do is to [bring] benefit [to the Kingdom] by allowing the data to be seen by the government so that they can take action,” he said.
Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak said 78 per cent of Cambodia lives in the countryside and depends on the agricultural sector, which generates one-third of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 40 per cent of the workforce.
“I encourage [those looking for opportunities here] to meet with our local agricultural partners to discuss and find a way to work together in Cambodia,” he said.
The agricultural sector accounted for 23.5 per cent of the Kingdom’s GDP in 2018, 1.4 percentage points lower than in 2017, Sorasak said.
Of the sector’s GDP that year, he said, the crop subsector accounted for 58.1 per cent, animal production 11.1 per cent, fisheries 24.1 per cent and forestry 6.7 per cent.