Agricultural experts have pinned their hopes on the ability of newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina to address the challenges facing farmers, in particular the need to discover new markets. However, they acknowledged that agricultural reform is a difficult task, and did not expect results too quickly.
Cambodian Aquaculturist Association president Sok Raden said that although Tina does not have much experience in agriculture, he sees Tina as an intellectual man who could be trusted by farmers, and is optimistic about the new minister.
“[Tina] is full of energy and has a fresh vision. He has a strong desire to bring growth to Cambodian agriculture. Our members are very active on social media, and they have all expressed positive expectations of him. They say he is a young intellectual man, and they are placing their hopes in him,” he added.
Raden said that what most farmers want from the new minister is transparency in the import and export of agricultural products, and control of agricultural safety in the market.
Srun Pov, president of the Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association, said he hoped that the new minister would solve the problem of Cambodia’s congested agricultural markets, hoping that even at such a young age, Tina would become the guardian of the Kingdom’s farmers.
He highlighted the weaknesses of the agricultural marketing system, especially in the field of meat and animal products, saying: “Farmers are finding it difficult to find markets for their products. I hope the new minister will improve the livestock industry so it does not collapse.”
Theng Savoeun, director of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community, described what he considered the four major problems in the agricultural sector.
“First, there is the problem of water or irrigation for agriculture. Then, there’s the processing of agricultural goods. Third is the lack of markets for our products. Finally, there is a lack of available capital. These are all issues which we are waiting for the new minister to address,” he said.
“The new minister’s remarks have been positive so far, but these are tough challenges which will take a long time to resolve – especially given his limited experience in the sector,” he added.
Agricultural expert Yang Saing Koma, who is also chairman of the Grassroots Democratic Party’s board of directors, said that the age of the agriculture minister is not important. What matters is that his policies are well thought out and, that he understands the needs of Cambodian farmers.
“The first thing he needs to tackle is an orientation strategy to improve the lives of farmers who are in crisis – especially smallholder farmers. The second problem is planning a national budget which meets agricultural challenges such as agricultural technology improvement, irrigation and improved agricultural markets. In addition, water resource problems are hindering farmers’ productivity, especially in rural areas,” he added.
Khun Savoeun, undersecretary of state at the ministry, said Tina’s lack of experience in agriculture would not be an obstacle, because as minister, his role is to focus on leadership and political work rather than specific specialist technical tasks.
“My colleagues and I are hopeful that Tina will be able to guide us through the reform that the agricultural sector needs. There is so much more to the industry than just cultivating crops and raising animals,” he added.
On October 17, the new minister stated that the interests of the Cambodian people are his top priority.
He said that although he had no experience in agriculture, he had already served as a senior official in two ministries – Commerce and Mines and Energy. He vowed to help farmers and the agricultural sector to improve via a number of important tasks, including understanding the agricultural market and the demand for agricultural products.
Tina was appointed agriculture minister by King Norodom Sihamoni in an October 14 royal decree and took office on October 17.