Newly-appointed Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina said he is committed to solving the challenges faced by all Cambodian farmers, especially those affected by floods, and that his main priority will be promoting their livelihoods.

Tina officially took office on October 17 in a ceremony held at the agriculture ministry and presided over by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth on behalf of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“I’m committed to using all of my strength, physically and mentally, to work with officials at all levels of the ministry and to work with the other relevant ministries and institutions in order to serve the people by addressing their challenges, especially those affected by floods,” he said.

Tina was appointed agriculture minister last week as the replacement for Veng Sakhon, who was stripped of his portfolio following public complaints from Hun Sen about his job performance. Sakhon has since been appointed Minister Delegate attached to the Prime Minister.

Tina ascended to the office of minister with a unanimous vote of confidence from 111 members of the National Assembly on October 14. He was appointed by King Norodom Sihamoni later that day.

Tina said that he will implement all pertinent national strategic plans, including the Agricultural Development Policy 2021-2030, in line with the government’s Rectangular Strategy.

He said he is committed to boosting the livelihoods of farmers by ensuring food security, promoting agriculture produce exports and doing anything in his power to contribute to the development of an economy that enables Cambodian farmers to thrive and flourish.

“Agriculture is one of the basic fundamentals of Cambodia’s economy. Many achievements have been made within this sector of late . . . Now we have to move far ahead of old ideas like depending on rain for agriculture or for the irrigation system to increase farmers’ yields. We must move from traditional agriculture – which depended on humans and animals – and instead turn to automation and machinery,” he said.

Cambodia is no longer a low-yield agricultural country that must retain all of its harvest to maintain food security and can now safely export abroad where it can find markets, he said.

Tina said he will visit the provinces where people have been most affected by the floods to bring relief to them and survey the damage himself.

When asked about his top priority at the time of the flooding, Tina said: “[The] government has procedures to do that kind of assessment work. National Committee for Disaster Management Kun Kim will continue the work of distributing relief aid.

“So, this does not have to be done by the agriculture minister alone as all these priorities have already been set by the government, with a clear formula for tackling them,” he said.

Tina’s predecessor Sakhon also spoke at the ceremony and was gracious in his remarks and comportment.

“I ask each specialist at every level to work together on the development of the agriculture sector so that it will be successful under the leadership of Dith Tina, who will take over for me,” he said.

When asked how he will promote the agriculture sector, and particularly produce, Tina responded that Cambodia is no longer a planned economy, but a free market where intervention cannot be dictated on a whim, and commented that action would be required from all stakeholders – farmers, traders and other sectoral actors.

“I will serve the interests of Cambodian citizens. That is my commitment. It’s very important that we look at the agriculture sector as a whole and not just at any individual or any specific section of the industry. Agriculture is a big and inclusive sector which will require all stakeholders to participate in order to reform it,” he said.

Asked whether he has any experience in agriculture specifically, Tina said: “We have many people with expertise in each sector. What’s important is leadership and being able to see the big picture. Although this sector is new to me, I believe I will manage to steer it.”

Tina added that he will work with all relevant parties in the spirit of solidarity and constructive forward progress.