Prime Minister Hun Sen announced his intent to attract investment from Timor-Leste, particularly in the establishment of rice and animal feed mills which could produce export goods for the island nation. The premier also reiterated his May 6 offer to dispatch agricultural specialists to the young Southeast Asian country.

Hun Sen met with Timor-Leste Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak on May 9, on the sidelines of the 42nd ASEAN summit in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia, according to his social media post.

He said he wanted to see Timor-Leste become a full member of ASEAN and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s willingness to cooperate to address its food security issues.

“If they agree, we will send agricultural experts to study their soil conditions and determine what kind of crops may best for cultivation there,” he said.

Ruak accepted the offer, acknowledging that his country needs to develop its agricultural sector in order to guarantee its food security.

Hun Sen explained that the specialists would review the current condition of the agricultural sector in Timor-Leste and offer suggestions that would improve productivity, as this would not only improve food security but also reduce imports.

A spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said officials were preparing to work with their Timor-Leste counterparts.

Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) president Chan Sokheang said the government’s decision to help the agriculture sector of Timor-Leste is a net positive for both countries.

“Cambodia was once a nation which suffered from food shortages, but has now developed so far that we are a net exporter,” he noted.

“The private sectors of both countries must work closely together to bolster the agricultural sector in Timor-Leste. We are examining investment opportunities that will be mutually beneficial,” he added.

Timor-Leste’s economy depends almost completely on mineral resources and oil from the Timor Sea, with the two activities generating up to 80 per cent of its GDP. However, the agricultural sector also plays an important role in the country’s economy, and employs more than half of the population.