Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen​ at the Closing of Annual Conference of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries 2016-17, and Directives Setting for 2017-2018

[ Unofficial Translation]

In addition to the prepared text, Samdech Techo Hun Sen made the following selected comments:

Continue Seeds Research and Development

I think that CARDI (Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute) will play very important role in the context of world’s difficulty in the climate change era. I hope that CARDI will continue to make efforts in seeds research and development that will be resilient to a changing climate. We are now surviving in a climate condition between 35 and 36 degree Celsius, however, once the weather temperature rises, we cannot keep using seeds that we have. We need to get new seeds ready. I am encouraging our officials and technicians in CARDI to make efforts in searching and developing for new seeds –staple food, crops and even flowers […]

Processing Industry to Increase Agricultural Value

Our challenge has been how to advance our agriculture. We need to address the currently limited processing industry issue since we have not made advancement in processing, rice milling included. I have met the other day with director of UNIDO and I have informed him about wish for processing industry development to increase value for material resources that are available in Cambodia. We may see that as one disadvantage and are making tireless efforts to figure that out. We are calling on private sector to invest in this front.

Agricultural Prices Alternate to Low

Exporting agricultural produces or marketing them has been a challenging issue for farmers in Cambodia, in the region and in the world. So far, the price of rice has been dropping that makes our farmers unhappy. In between 2008 and 2010, prices of agricultural produces were better and our farmers were taking that chance to reap the benefits of it, while the world was in financial crisis and economics downturn. The price of rice or agricultural produces went up. Our farmers saw that as an advantage to increase their production. We have a surplus now of more than five million tons of paddy rice, or about three million metric tons in milled rice. However, we should remember that Cambodia is not the only country that produces rice […]

Vietnam has been exporting roughly five million metric tons of rice yearly. Laos has been subsistent in its rice production. Myanmar also exports rice. India, furthermore, has one of the biggest rice stocks because it has a population of 1,300 million. So many countries are producing rice. While so, countries of similar produces are competing with one another. Developed countries, in this instance, are producing other goods that not many countries can compete. Example, there are companies making planes like Boeing of the US and Airbus of Europe. Many other countries are making helicopters. Many customer countries buy from them […] their competition is different.

In Davos, Switzerland, attending the world economic forum, it took me to my surprise that representatives come from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Middle East, and Europe, were complaining about high price of food, while developing countries are considering it low […] there was a time when price of food was not balancing with price of oil. In Cambodia, about 92% of our farmers are using pulled tractors already. People bought them at a dear price and paid for oil and maintenance. They also have to purchase fertilizer too.

Trade War

This is a big issue and we will have to work together with other developing countries to negotiate in the World-Trade Organization framework to search for a more balancing trend of selling goods from developed countries into developing countries, and developing countries’ goods into those markets of developed countries. Perhaps the most urgent and bigger issue is to reduce or stop immediately agricultural subsidies policy. Should it continue we would have less hope that goods from developing countries could get in markets of developed countries […]

We noticed that trade war between rich countries is going on. It has been so frequent that so and so produces are infected. It is all trade war and it bears a heavy blow on agriculture. In South Korea, farmers would go on strike against imports of American beef.  I hope countries in the framework of World Trade Organization would seek to work together to harmonize trade and economic relations.

Seeking Markets for Farmers

I am seeking our farmers to understand this gravity. The Royal Government would wish very much to open up new market access. We export our rice to Europe because we have less competition there since our rice is fragrant type and organic. It is in this understanding that we are asking our farmers to choose the best seeds and refrain from using toxic chemical solution in their culturing techniques or we may risk losing markets. We have words around about hiding this or that in the sack. Losing a market and market trust is another major disaster. We export most of our fragrant rice to France, and secondly to Poland. In Asia, we export some 300,000 tons of rice to Vietnam. We have export quota increasing from 100,000 to 200,000 tons of rice to China. With these two countries, we have secured export of 500,000 metric tons of rice.

On the course of the visit by the President of the Philippines, I brought this issue up with him. The Philippines is food insufficient and needs to buy rice. Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are bidding to supply rice to the Philippines. Cambodia failed because its cost of producing rice is higher and therefore its bidding price is high. I then asked the President of the Philippines to invest 100% in purchasing, processing and exporting rice to the Philippines by its investors. They could serve as supplier of rice to the country. This is one example of how the Royal Government of Cambodia is seeking for market for the country’s agricultural produces. I am appealing to our people though to respect production and trade rules in ensuring true seed quality and free of chemical, etc.

Agricultural Crops Zoning

In time to come, we may have to do crop zoning. We should start zoning where we grow rice for export because our farmers and agricultural technicians all know what it is. Let say, we have reserved 10,000 hectares of land for export-quality rice cultivation, and a few hectares of land nearby grow a different rice species, we would not be able to ensure the pure quality of rice yield for cross pollination. All in all we all should see that our farmers have moved away now from subsistent agricultural farming to farming to serve market demand locally and for export. Our farmers should see that to achieve high price, they would have to use the best quality rice seed that will answer to demand for export […]/.