Prime Minister Hun Sen told farmers to turn Covid-19 challenges into opportunities to strengthen the agricultural sector for domestic and export needs.
He called on Cambodians who returned from Thailand to take part in the agricultural sector as the government spends $5 million to expand fish and frog breeding jobs.
While visiting a fish breeding centre and meeting with farmers in Peam Ro district in Prey Veng province on Tuesday, Hun Sen told farmers that exporting agricultural products to markets in the region and the globe contributed to supply chains in a world facing the Covid-19 crisis.
The prime minister also pointed his finger at foreign media outlets. He said they alleged there were food shortages in Cambodia as they likely misunderstood measures to delay milled rice exports to mean Cambodia lacked food.
“Foreign friends or newspapers used to write about three or four articles pointing at us. But today I want to confirm to those reporters that Cambodia will join the food supply chains in the region and also the world.
“Cambodia has four million hectares of land [to cultivate], including plantations and rice. I expect the exports of milled rice, cashews and other food to grow,” he said.
Hun Sen also addressed the needs of the workforce as many manufacturing jobs have been lost. He stressed that 80 per cent of the workforce used to be in agriculture.
He said jobs lost in the industrial and service sectors can return to agriculture because the land yields over three million tonnes of rice in the dry and rainy seasons, along with other industrial crops.
“We spend $25 million a month providing for people. I told [the government] to spend an additional $5 million to help farmers.
“It is not excessive to invest in our farmers to breed fish. We are not afraid of investment because this investment is to create jobs for farmers and generate incomes. It is no less valuable than investments in schools,” he said.
Hun Sen also called on farmers to breed pigs and stressed that he recently denied the importation of one million pigs to Cambodia.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon said the agricultural sector contributed 20.8 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP) last year.
In the first six months of this year, 4,200 tonnes of milled rice was exported to 56 countries. Crops this year have been grown on nearly two million hectares, equivalent to 76 per cent of the planned 2.5 million hectares set aside for growing crops.
Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch said the ministry was training and advising farmers on how to shape markets at home and abroad.
“Cambodians must have the will to support domestic products to give them value,” he said.