Cambodia and Israel are looking to pen a deal on agricultural development, to adopt and adapt the Middle Eastern country’s agri-tech models in the Kingdom and drive up exports in the sector, according to the agriculture minister.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon led a delegation of officials and private sector representatives to Israel on a four-day trip, arriving on August 28.

Sakhon told The Post on August 29 that the aim of the trip is to establish a dialogue with the Israeli agriculture and foreign ministries on setting up a working group tasked with preparing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on knowledge and experience sharing in the field that encompasses visits by officials and private sector actors between the two countries.

The agriculture minister affirmed that he met his Israeli counterpart Oded Forer on August 28, and that both sides were keen to proceed with the establishment of the working group. “The MoU is to boost cooperation on technical support, the exchanging of experience, and research between two [agriculture] ministries,” Sakhon said.

He added that the delegation would attend a business event on August 29. “I do hope that we can build very good cooperation between both governments as well as business communities for the development of agriculture,” he said.

The minister underscored that loads of safe vegetables, meats and other food items now stock the shelves of Phnom Penh’s supermarkets and malls, a reality he suggested was at least in part due to strong Cambodia-Israel relations.

Another “good result from cooperation with Israel” is an uptrend in total agricultural exports, reaching nearly eight million tonnes in 2021, from the “three to four million tonnes” recorded annually “over the past six years”, he said, predicting that “bringing in the latest technologies from Israel” would bump this figure to or above nine million tonnes in 2022.

For reference, ministry data shows that in 2021, Cambodia exported a total of 7,984,251.83 tonnes of agricultural products to 68 countries and territories, marking a rise of 3,110,790.73 tonnes or 63.83 per cent over 2020. Last year’s agricultural exports netted a total of $4,967,852,713.

Tropicam Fruit and Vegetable Co Ltd CEO Hun Lak, a member of the same delegation, told The Post on August 29 that Israel’s largest agricultural technology firm Netafim entered the Cambodian scene a “few years” ago, and struck a partnership with his company.

Netafim has since provided the Kingdom with high-tech agricultural equipment and systems, and delivered “innovative, tailor-made” irrigation and fertigation solutions, he said.

He added that Tropicam Fruit and Vegetable has worked with Netafim in the provision of “small-, medium- and large-scale” irrigation systems. “In recent years, we’ve installed systems for banana, durian and mango,” Lak said.

He said the private sector representatives on the trip want to look into Israeli agricultural models and explore methods that could be applied in Cambodia, especially those falling under the smart-agriculture concept.

Data from the ministry’s General Directorate of Agriculture reveal that in January-March this year, Cambodia exported a total of 3,434,070 tonnes of agricultural products to 57 countries and territories, an increase of more than 344,860 tonnes, or 11.16 per cent year-on-year. The estimated value of the exports was $1.268 billion.

Major agricultural exports include milled and paddy rice, cassava chips, fresh cassava, tapioca starch, raw and processed cashew nuts, dried corn kernels, mung beans, bananas, pomelos, fresh and processed mangoes, peppers, tobacco, fresh and dried chillies, and a variety of other vegetables.