During Prime Minister Hun Manet’s first official visit to Australia, several large Australian companies have expressed an interest in investing in Cambodia.

Among the potential investments are milled rice factories, sorghum processing facilities, logistics, energy management and healthcare.

Manet met with the representatives of three large Australian businesses on March 4 in Melbourne, Australia, on the sidelines of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.

Economists, industry associations and government officials hailed the possibilities of new sources of foreign investment.

During the meeting, SunRice Group CEO Paul Serra shared his interest in establishing a factory in Cambodia to process the Kingdom’s milled organic rice for exports overseas, said a social media post from the prime minister.

Serra said SunRice was the first Australian company to export Cambodian rice to Australia and New Zealand, according to the post.

The CEO noted the Kingdom’s excellent agricultural potential, as its high-quality rice is well-known, its workforce is young, and it enjoys excellent transport and infrastructure connectivity, as well as stable electricity prices.

“Our company is extremely interested in strengthening and expanding agricultural relations with Cambodia, with a focus on the rice processing industry. We intend to establish a factory which will process milled organic rice for export,” he added.

Manet welcomed the company’s intention to expand its investment.

“Strengthening the agricultural sector is a government priority. To that end, we have deployed specialist agricultural officials to farming communes across the country. They will offer technical support and increase productivity,” he said.

He suggested that company representatives visit the Kingdom and learn more about additional investment opportunities.

Chan Sokheang, president of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) – the nation’s apex rice industry body – shared his pleasure at the positive investment news.

“The news that SunRice is interested in investing is great news for the Kingdom. I was elated to hear the outcome of the prime minister’s meeting,” he said.

Sokheang noted that the firm had previously explored the possibility of establishing a factory in Cambodia, but the study was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. He believes the renewed interest marks a bold step towards taking the Kingdom’s rice to another level and would open new markets for farmers.

“In the past month, we also saw interest from another huge multinational rice company from Singapore,” he added.

On the same day, Manet also held talks with Tanachat Pochana, chairman of Enserv Holding Australia, which specialises in clean energy generation, emissions reductions and climate change services. 

During the meeting, Pochana explained that the company was particularly focused on sorghum, a crop which can produce a cereal which is lower in calories than milled rice but higher in protein. It can also produce biogas energy, and potentially earn carbon credits as it grows.

He added that sorghum also provides high crop yields, grows well in all kinds of soil and does not require as much water as rice to cultivate.

The prime minister also met with Daniel Phillips, CEO of Aegros Limited and Fresh Start Logistics Pty Ltd.

Phillips explained that Fresh Start focuses not only on transport, logistics and supply chain operations but also energy management and health. The company currently operates in many countries around the world, including in Asia.

He expressed his desire to identify investment opportunities in many sectors, including logistics, energy and health.

Manet welcomed his interest, suggesting that the company discuss further opportunities with relevant government institutions, especially the Ministry of Health. 

Hong Vanak, an economist at the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, noted that many large Australian companies have already invested in the Kingdom, so it can be assumed that other Australian firms are aware of the country’s investment incentives and positive investment climate.

“I think it must have been an easy decision to make for these latest companies. If these projects become reality, in my view they will correspond with the government’s agricultural reform policies,” he added.

He noted that the new investment would make a significant contribution to the Kingdom’s economy while creating more jobs.

Government spokesman Pen Bona said on March 4 that Manet’s visit has two main objectives: to strengthen the bonds of friendship and diplomatic cooperation, while also sharing foreign investment opportunities in Cambodia.

“While meeting with large potential investors, he briefed them on investment opportunities in Cambodia, noting the peace and political stability the Kingdom enjoys, as well as our favourable investment laws. As Cambodia is a rapidly developing country, there are many opportunities for investment,” he added.