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Agribusiness shift a priority for farming sector, CPP says

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A farmer uses a tractor to level a rice field in Peam Ro district of Prey Veng province early this month. Cambodia is pushing for the modernisation of agricultural practices towards an ‘agribusiness’ farming model. Hong Menea

Agribusiness shift a priority for farming sector, CPP says

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has, following its two-day extraordinary congress that concluded on January 29, outlined among other policies the priority of transforming the Kingdom from an agricultural country into one first rate in agribusiness – if it is re-elected.

Agribusiness refers to the sum total of all economic activities related to the production, handling and distribution of agricultural goods to local and international markets for monetary consideration, with its prioritising included in the five-year “Policy to Build and Protect the Motherland 2023-2038” made at the congress.

Addressing a press conference following the closing of the congress, party spokesman Suos Yara said the CPP-led government has clear policies for developing the economy.

“We have introduced this policy, which was initiated by Prime Minister Hun Sen, of building our motherland from an agricultural country into an agribusiness one. Whereas previously our produce was intended just for local consumption, it would now also be for export.

“The word ‘agribusiness’ refers to our ambitions – human resources will be employed according to their respective skills in their geographic location.

“These resources would also serve the people of each area in supplying the products needed to meet the actual needs of the market,” Yara said.

He also encouraged young people who had undergone training in agriculture to use their skills to benefit the farming sector.

According to Yara, a large portion of the national budget would be used to increase salaries and social protection, and to guarantee farmers’ prices at harvest.

“We would also have other options for workers and for benefiting the general population, including on lowering the prices of electricity, water and food,” he said.

Chhim Phal Vorun, another CPP spokesman, said at the press conference that while the agriculture sector had historically produced for family subsistence and supplying the surrounding area, the CPP sees great potential for agribusiness in the Cambodian economy.

“We can become an agribusiness country. This means that farmers are also producers, with them not only providing food, but also the products used in a range of other goods.

“We see that these commodities can also be linked with tourism. With an agribusiness model, we can produce agricultural products for supplying domestic tourism and also for overseas.

“With the CPP’s capacity for study and research, bringing together intellectuals who have skills in all sectors, this is a step forward. The CPP works with facts and does not rely on populism,” Phal Vorun said.

The CPP congress also earmarked addressing people’s needs, job creation, agricultural markets, stability in the price of essentials and the greater provision of healthcare, clean drinking water and electricity, as well as the construction of rural roads and canals.

The CPP promised that, if re-elected, agricultural experts would directly work with all communes in the Kingdom.

Yang Saing Koma, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said Prime Minister Hun Sen had announced during the convention that agricultural experts would in the seventh mandate serve farmers in person across all communes.

“Agricultural expertise is currently only available at the provincial and district levels, and not directly in communes.

“The CPP president would prepare for agricultural officers, especially agriculture students who have just graduated, to work directly with farmers in every commune so they can improve their livelihoods,” Saing Koma said.

With Cambodia traditionally a farming country, a shortage of agricultural experts at the grassroots levels was a particular challenge, he noted, with it necessary to have at least one expert in each commune to help farmers.

Song Saran, CEO of Amru Rice Cambodia Co Ltd, said that as a member of the private sector, he fully supports the policy as it would prove beneficial in the bringing in of modern agricultural practices.

Agricultural experts are required to support rural communities in adopting the latest methods to become modern farmers capable of both producing and looking for markets.

Amru Rice has deployed more than 400 company experts to work in person with farming communities, which has resulted in remarkable success, he said.

The government introducing such a policy would reduce private sector spending on developing human resources, he added.

“A shortage of agricultural experts is a challenge, so it would be good if the government addressed this,” Saran said.

Kin Phea, director of International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia who saw the policies in full, said CPP strategy included diversifying export products, with a focus now on agriculture in addition to the garment sector.

“If we can increase agricultural sector exports, like the CPP has laid out with expanding into agribusiness, I think it represents good progress.

“If this policy is successfully implemented, it will become a backbone of the economy for Cambodia and improve the livelihoods of our people, especially farmers,” he said.

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