The Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is preparing a draft law on phytosanitation and the protection of plants in order to strengthen biosecurity measures on imported agricultural products and increase confidence of Cambodia’s trading partners.

The Council of Ministers at a session presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 4 had approved the draft law, according to government spokesman Phay Siphan, who said in a statement that the bill is consistent with government policies and strategies, the pertinent domestic legal frameworks, and regional and international conventions and agreements on plant protection and phytosanitary matters.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon said that with this draft law, it is hoped that the ministry can compile a comprehensive legal document that will allow it to have “sufficient authority” over the quality of Cambodia’s agricultural imports and exports to and from international markets.

“The purpose of this draft law is to ensure the management, plant protection and phytosanitation of both imported and exported agricultural products to serve the public interest and meet the needs of society and the national economy,” Sakhon told the National Assembly’s Third Committee on March 16.

Sam Vito, an independent consultant on Cambodian agriculture, told The Post that in general, each country should have its own plant protection and phytosanitary laws to avoid infection of native plant species by imported agricultural products and copies of plant genes.

“Products that we export to China – such as Cambodian mango – have been subject to strict control by Chinese customs, because these agricultural products can contain biosecurity risks posed by pests that have the potential to infect its countries’ native plants.

“This is an important consideration that Cambodia must also have when it comes to its own biosecurity, and it should develop and apply laws consistently like other countries,” he said.

Vito added that once the law is in place, the government should consider dispatching mobile test equipment to all border checkpoints to assess imported agricultural products, saying that this will enhance the implementation of the law effectively.

The agriculture minister said that the draft law has several important benefits, among which includes support for policies and strategies to spur agricultural production, as well as the diversification and commercialisation of agriculture. It will also serve as a legal tool for the implementation of measures to mitigate plant health risks and the spread of infections.

Sakhon added that the Kingdom should also increase phytosanitary security through several means, key of which includes the prevention of the influx of agricultural products that may contain contaminants and the subsequent importation and storage of such contaminants.

Additionally, he advised that Cambodia should prioritise meeting the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) International Convention on Plant Protection requirements and phytosanitary standards in order to increase the confidence of its trading partners and increase leverage when negotiating for more access to agricultural export markets.

According to data from the agriculture ministry, Cambodia’s agricultural exports reached eight million tonnes in 2021, a year-on-year surge of 63.83 per cent – or more than three million tonnes – and generated nearly $5 billion in revenue. It represents a nearly 11 per cent jump from the $4.49 billion generated in 2020.