Agriculture minister Dith Tina describes how Cambodia is in need of upstream investors to provide capital for the machinery needed to add value to the Kingdom’s agricultural export products.

Tina made the remarks following his January 3 meeting with Chinese investors at the ministry headquarters in Phnom Penh.

According to the Ministry of Agricultural, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina welcomes any potential investment that would support the processing and packaging of agricultural products for export to China and other international markets.

He highlighted the export potential of premium rice, cashews, rubber, and freshwater and other aquaculture products, noting the benefits that value-added goods could provide to farmers and investors alike.

“All investment plans must be carefully examined to ensure that they are in line with government policies, and are profitable and economically sustainable,” he said.

He provided the prospective Chinese investors with details of the government’s priority policy and agriculture mechanisms, explaining that they focus on the establishment of modern agricultural communities, as well as the posting of specialist officials to all communes.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng agreed with the minister’s comments, saying it was true that Cambodia has many raw agricultural products that require processing to maximise their potential.

“Normally, processed products trade for more than raw materials. For example, the price of raw cashews is about 10,000 riel [$2.5] per kilogramme, but once processed they can command from 50,000 to 60,000 riel [$12.5 to $15] per kg. At this point, we do not want to export our raw cashews, but we lack the factories needed to process them,” he said.

“The CCC is working to help the government attract investors from all over the world so we can establish the facilities we need to ensure we earn maximum value from our products,” he added.

Thun Vathana, president of the Prek Leap National Institute of Agriculture and a reserve member of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said he would like to see more factories that could process cashews locally.

“Currently, we are losing out on potential income because we cannot process them,” he explained.

“Cambodia produces a lot of cashews, but we export few processed nuts. If we had the opportunity to process them locally and then export them to international markets, the economy would grow. The government has made efforts to promote investment in the sector by offering tax exemptions and encouraged financial support by way of reducing interest rates for farmers,” he added.

According to the General Department of Agriculture, in the first 11 months of 2023, Cambodia’s agricultural exports totalled more than 7,314,190 tonnes (595,630 tonnes of rice, 2,497,075 tonnes of paddy and 4,221,485.12 tonnes of other products) to 75 destinations, a decrease of 4.6 per cent over the same period in 2022.