Stakeholders are pushing for the transformation and modernisation of agriculture in Cambodia into a resilient, dynamic and high-growth sector that would more vigorously accelerate rehabilitation, poverty alleviation and inclusive growth to contribute to trade and food security.

At the Sustainable Agriculture Summit 2022 held in Siem Reap town on February 10, Supreme National Economic Council (SNEC) senior adviser and Cambodian Agricultural Cooperatives Corporation (CACC) chairman Mey Kalyan highlighted that the modernisation of the Kingdom’s agricultural sector is an important item on the national agenda.

“This country’s successful transition from lower middle-income to upper middle-income status must be achieved through effective transformation of agri-food ecosystems in a responsible, ethical and inclusive manner,” he said.

The government’s vision for agriculture is “correct” in its current thrust for diversification of high-value crops and use of modern technologies, and its management of food supply during the pandemic has been “effective” and “absolutely right”, according to Kalyan.

“Our farmers and the agri-business sector are ensuring that we are all well-equipped to overcome the challenges of economic recovery and in positioning our economy as a relevant force for sustainable food production and vibrant food trade in both the domestic and global markets,” he said.

Preah Vihear provincial Department of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry director Peung Tryda said Cambodia’s vision is of a food-secure and resilient community with prosperous farmers and agri-businesses teaming up with the government.

“Realising this vision will require dedicated efforts among major agro-industry stakeholders, led by the Ministry of Agriculture, [Forestry and Fisheries], to continuously empower agri-preneurs, as well as from the private sector to increase agricultural productivity and profitability, taking into account sustainability, resilience and protection of ecosystems and biodiversity,” he said.

Cambodia Rice Federation and Amru Rice (Cambodia) Co Ltd CEO Song Saran said: “These paradigm shifts will be crucial to meeting emerging domestic and global market opportunities, while creating jobs, raising farmer incomes and ensuring the food security needs of the country and tackling the new challenges of climate change.”

He commented that stakeholders at the meeting voiced supported for more projects to help raise agricultural productivity and resiliency, and improve access to markets for growers among communities in select ancestral domains in central and northern Cambodia, where smallholder farmers “are at the heart”.

“Most importantly, we want to see a focus on inclusivity, sustainability and ethical business practices throughout the value chain, and at the same time, the promotion of climate-resilient seeds, environmental protection and maintenance of soil fertility through natural means,” Saran said.

Oxfam national director Phean Sophoan said agritech, sustainable and “climate-smart” agriculture, and green financing will play a crucial role in reducing poverty and inequality in Cambodia, especially for women who predominantly perform the back-breaking work required in agricultural supply chains.

“Oxfam welcomes the public-private sector collaboration at the Sustainable Agriculture Summit,” she said.

Smallholder farmers attending the summit noted that cooperatives, agri-businesses and the government still need to adapt more efficient protocols to better enable them to access inputs, affordable financing for investments, and markets for their produce.

Agri-businesses and wholesalers, meanwhile, emphasised that producers should ensure quantity and quality of produces for processing on a timely basis.

Flexible and affordable financing mechanisms need to be made widely available to allow cooperatives and business involved in agricultural procurement and processing to buy more and better produce from farmers.

This would encourage private sector development in upstream markets (inputs and agricultural services) and downstream ones (processing and marketing), thereby providing farmers with better marketing options.

The summit called for initiatives to drive modernisation of the agriculture sector, such as cooperative farming schemes, better networking solutions, e-commerce, and investments in agri-business start-ups.