Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina has mooted the idea of building a large, modern national agricultural laboratory in Kandal province. Construction is expected to cost $30 million and scheduled for completion in 2026.

While meeting with Asian Development Bank (ADB) country director Jyotsana Varma on September 26, Tina said he welcomes all investment and development projects that would improve the livelihoods of farmers and drive Cambodia towards becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2030.

“The national laboratory will be an essential part of inspecting agricultural products, in order to guarantee food safety and control infectious diseases,” he explained. “We welcome any development partners who want to join us in this project.”

Ministry spokesperson Im Rachna said on September 27 that the lab construction project was initiated by the minister himself. Having inspected key general departments, Tina intends to establish a national lab that will combine the work of the labs of each municipal-provincial agriculture department.

“The national lab will help us a lot, in terms of cutting costs regarding equipment that is generally expensive. That’s our first goal.

“Second, if we bring all of the scientists and lab technicians together, they can share their experience, to strengthen one another’s’ capacities,” she said.

Thong Ra, a food safety specialist at the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), voiced strong support for the establishment of the facility, adding that the UN agency stands ready to provide the ministry with technical assistance.

He explained that the ministry met with his organisation recently to discuss the idea, believing that the lab will be very important to improve food safety, both domestically and for export products.

“We strongly support the establishment of this lab. UNIDO has previously noted that the existing labs lack human resources for analysing data and issuing findings.

“To date, we have worked with many labs in Cambodia and provided over 10 state and private labs with training to make technical comments and improve food safety standards,” he said.

Rachna said the facility will be built on 2ha of land in Sitbo commune of Kandal province’s Takhmao town, just outsides the capital.

On the same day, Tina also met with Russian ambassador Anatoly Borovik at the ministry headquarters.

During the meeting, he welcomed Cambodia-Russia agricultural cooperation, which focuses mainly on boosting trade, including the import of fertilisers from Russia and the export of Cambodian produce.

Both sides also discussed holding a memorial service for eight Russian agricultural specialists who were killed by the Khmer Rouge in Kampong Cham province on August 23, 1983.

They agreed to hold a service in the province and install a memorial. The names of the eight experts will be engraved on the monument, in both the Khmer and Russian languages.