A senior official at the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) has encouraged domestic investors to put their funds into the agro-industrial sector and agriculture. These are being hailed as the potential growth sectors of the moment.

Speaking at the 2023 Cambodian Business Forum on August 11, Chea Vuthy, deputy secretary-general of the CDC’s Cambodian Investment Board (CIB), acknowledged that challenges exist, but so do opportunities.

He identified agriculture and the agro-industrial sectors as the main opportunities, emphasising that they are showing increased potential.

Cambodia’s vast land holdings in these sectors make them ideal for fulfilling both domestic and export demands for food supply production, he said.

The worldwide increase in population, particularly in India where growth has surpassed China, has led to an opportunity for Cambodia, he added.

Vuthy noted that the halt of milled rice exports from India opened doors for Cambodia to export to the US and other countries. He urged the private sector to boost domestic processing in order to make the most of this opportunity.

“I have faith that these sectors have the potential for Cambodia and the most important factor to consider is how to create a conducive investment climate,” he said.

“The new investment law, introduced in October of 2021, along with the government’s sub-decree on the Implementation of the Law on Investment in June 2023, really gives our investments a kick-start,” he added.

Vuthy also highlighted the crises that still remain but encouraged turning them into opportunities and solutions, saying that cooperation between relevant ministries, institutions and the private sector is essential. The private sector must engage with the CDC to face the challenges together, creating a more favourable investment climate.

In reference to recent legal developments, Vuthy pointed out that the new investment law is more encouraging than its predecessor, especially in terms of processing, production and purchases.

Hun Lak, secretary-general of the Cambodia Oknha Association (COA) – which is made up of wealth businesspeople who hold the honorific Oknha, a title bestowed on them by royal decrees for their significant contributions to national development – also advised domestic investors to be mindful of market demands, focusing especially on processing, production and purchases.

He urged the private sector to have discussions and offer suggestions through the CDC or relevant ministries to support those intending to invest in stockpiling for production and processing after the harvest season.

“Cambodia has only ever exported raw materials, leading to a loss in profit, as neighbouring countries process those products and then market them as their own. Therefore, investing in processing and purchases is crucial,” he added.

Despite these challenges, Lak remains optimistic about the future of Cambodia’s agricultural exports. However, he also warned of the need for caution, especially when exporting to China. With the Chinese population cutting their spending, resulting in falling prices of essential foodstuffs, careful consideration and strategic planning are essential in this evolving market.