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US opens first USDA office in Kingdom

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US ambassador to Cambodia W Patrick Murphy cuts the ribbon on the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) office at the embassy. US EMBASSY

US opens first USDA office in Kingdom

Washington this month opened its first US Department of Agriculture (USDA) office in Cambodia, in a move aimed at bringing larger volumes of more offerings from the Kingdom’s rich agricultural product portfolio into the world’s largest economy in nominal terms.

The US embassy in Phnom Penh said in a statement on September 23 that the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) office seeks to buttress burgeoning Cambodia-US agricultural trade.

US ambassador to Cambodia W Patrick Murphy said in the statement: “There’s a great appetite for American agricultural products and technology in Cambodia, and this new USDA office will work to make them more available to Cambodian consumers and producers.

“That’s good news for both countries, and it reflects our longstanding commitment to ensuring the Cambodian people have access to high-quality goods and services from the United States,” he said.

Cambodia Rice Federation president Song Saran welcomed the FAS office, saying it will serve as a platform to boost and improve the Kingdom’s agricultural sector and exports. “We are thrilled to have a US agricultural office in Cambodia.”

While he alluded to the fact that companies and individuals would continue to make management decisions driven by their own interests, he did say “we are keen to cooperate with them [the FAS office] as it can make us more competitive and help our farmers”.

“We are ready to cooperate. The private sector has adopted the 4P model to help farmers broaden their markets,” he added, referring to a concept for marketing management decisions centred around product, price, place and promotion.

Noting that Cambodian agricultural exports to the US are relatively limited, Saran said: “We hope that the US will bring their technology, expertise and experience through their agricultural office, and spruce up the agricultural sector here and make it more competitive and able to churn out products that meet US standards.”

The embassy went on to say that the FAS office would be housed in its compound, but added: “Its work reaches across the Kingdom to support bilateral agricultural trade and collaboration benefitting both countries.”

The office “will also support Cambodian schoolchildren and farmers, with tens of millions of dollars in ongoing USDA development assistance programmes, such as the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Programme, which provides meals for children in primary schools, and the Food for Progress programme, which improves agricultural productivity”, it said.

“Cambodia is a growing market for US agricultural exports, with $72.7 million in sales in 2020 – an increase of 474 per cent over the past 10 years,” it added.

Cambodia exported a total of 4,454,505.33 tonnes of agricultural products in the first half of this year, surging by 84.64 per cent year-on-year, according to Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon on June 30.

This was 2,041,982.72 tonnes more than the 2,412,522.61 tonnes recorded in January-June 2020, the minister pointed out via social media.

Shipped out to 62 countries and territories, the goods were worth more than $2.571 billion, based on exporters’ invoices, he said.

The Kingdom’s main agricultural exports were classified as milled rice, cassava, mangoes, fresh bananas, peppercorn, cashew nuts, corn, soybeans, mung beans, palm oil, tobacco, chilli and assorted vegetables.

The minister noted that agricultural exports remained on a solid growth path, saying that his ministry is working on promoting the Cambodia Good Agricultural Practices (CamGAP) standards and the use of QR Codes, to identify certified growers’ produce.

This, he said, would spur improvements in the quality and safety of Cambodian produce for the benefit of domestic and international consumers.

“CamGAP … [also] fuels Cambodian agricultural exports to international markets,” Sakhon said.

The ongoing growth in Cambodian agricultural exports is widely-believed to be a driving force behind agreements with countries – such as China and South Korea – for imports of these products.

Last year, the Kingdom raked in $3.433 billion from sales of agricultural products abroad, according to the ministry.

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