Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked Australia for helping the Cambodian farming sector over the years while placing an order from the country for 2,000 rice-planting machines to donate to local farmers.
The prime minister expressed his admiration while meeting with farmers in Prey Kabbas district, Takeo province in the presence of Australian ambassador to Cambodia Pablo Kang.
He recalled that in 1983, Australia took the initiative not to recognise the Khmer Rouge at the UN when Australia was governed by the Labour Party.
Since then, a series of NGOs from Australia have come to Cambodia, and Australia has participated in the farming sector and worked with the Cambodia Agriculture Research and Development Institute (Cardi).
He said he visited Australia during the tenure of Prime Minister John Howard. Howard took him to see a farming area because Australia knew Cambodia is a farming country and was seeking agricultural aid, which Australia could provide.
Hun Sen said Australia helped Cambodia with the agricultural sector, including irrigation systems and technical training, breeding techniques and imports to markets. He said he had sought foreign aid to build Cambodia and the countries that responded included Australia, China, and South Korea.
Kang told The Post on Tuesday that Australia has been providing continuous support to the Cambodian agriculture sector since the 1990s.
Australia, he said, had sent agriculture experts to support Cambodia since the 1960s and worked with the International Rice Research Institute in Cambodia in the 1980s, which led to the establishment of Cardi in the late 1990s.
He said Australia’s current flagship programme is the Cambodia-Australia Agriculture Value Chain Programme (Cavac), valued at around $100 million.
Cavac’s objective is to improve the productivity and competitiveness of Cambodian farmers and their products. Cavac has constructed 10 irrigation schemes in Takeo, Prey Veng and Kandal Provinces since 2016. The schemes have supplied water for 12,000 households, covering 9,000ha.
Australia is also working with the Cambodian government and private sector to support the broader modernisation of Cambodian agriculture, Kang said.
When asked why Australia paid attention to the agriculture sector, Kang said: “As a long-term friend and neighbour, Australia’s development cooperation aims to build Cambodia’s resilience and reduce poverty.
“In both countries, agriculture is an important economic pillar (employing 37 per cent of Cambodians) and we both have challenging climates. With these commonalities, much of Australia’s experience and expertise is useful to support the development of Cambodia’s agriculture sector.”
Kang said Covid-19 had severely impacted the tourism and garment sectors in Cambodia and it is important that the Kingdom continue to develop its agricultural products so that they can be sold internationally, earning important revenue for the nation.
The 2,000 rice-planting machines – 1,000 large machines and 1,000 smaller ones – the prime minister purchased on Tuesday will be handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
They will be distributed to households that need them. Poor households, who have no farmland, can use the machines to generate income [as outsource parties].
“Households that lack land can use the machines to do jobs to generate income and make money. I give them free of charge. No need to return them to me. As long as they do good, I am happy,” Hun Sen said.