Cambodia is stepping up efforts to court investors to the agro-processing sector, in a bid to reduce the export of – low-value – raw materials, but her labour force must be provided with the necessary skills and competencies to prosper in the evolving job market, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The premier was speaking at a February 27 graduation ceremony for more than 5,000 students of the National Technical Training Institute, which was held at the Chroy Changvar International Convention and Exhibition Centre in northeastern Phnom Penh.
He hailed the processing industry as an important driver of employment opportunities for locals that also enhances export capacity and creates value-added.
“Value-added” is the increase in value of a product or service as it progresses through the stages of development and production, exclusive of initial costs.
More investors in the industry “will give our farmers the opportunity to grow and have a market” as well as generate greater value-added for locally-made goods, Hun Sen said, affirming that “we want” industrial policy, and implementation thereof, that effectively attract high-tech industry.
Industry players have been entering the Cambodian market and increasing their commitments here, such as Japanese company Minebea, whose earlier investment of “just over $30 million” has rocketed to “nearly $1 billion”, he said, calling for the Kingdom strive to ensure “sufficient capacity” to meet the needs of investors.
Commenting that Cambodia is able to export about one million tonnes of raw cashew nuts to Vietnam per annum, the prime minister proclaimed that, with sufficient processing facilities, the Kingdom could become a major global supplier of the edible kidney-shaped drupe seeds.
The rice and rubber sectors, among others, face similar issues related to export-oriented processing capacity, he rued.
Cashew nut Association of Cambodia (CAC) president Uon Silot told The Post on February 27 that cashew nut yields are steadily rising in the Kingdom, which has counterpart associations across Africa spooked that this could hurt their market value.
“However, the [CAC] has told them not to worry since Cambodian cashew nuts and derived products are no cause for concern, nor do they pose major competition for the African market,” he said, adding that his association is currently looking for buyers of processed cashew nuts in the Arab, European and US markets.
Silot shared that the CAC attended the World Cashew Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from February 23-25 to promote the potential of Cambodian cashew nuts to the world.
According to the CAC, Cambodia exported 670,000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts valued at $1.077 billion in 2022, down by 34.65 per cent year-on-year in terms of tonnage. Vietnam topped the list of buyers, importing 660,000 tonnes, down 37 per cent from 2021.
Accounting for rounding, this would put both the 2021 total and Vietnam export figures in the 1.031-1.033 million tonne range.
Customs (GDCE) data show that Cambodia’s international merchandise trade volume totalled $52.425 billion last year, increasing by 9.19 per cent versus 2021.
Of that, the Kingdom’s imports and exports clocked in at $29.942 billion and $22.483 billion, up 4.32 per cent and 16.44 per cent year-on-year, narrowing the trade deficit by 20.60 per cent on a yearly basis to $7.459 billion.