Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina requested the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) facilitate low-interest loans for Cambodian entrepreneurs and farmers.

He made the request during a March 7 meeting with JICA representatives in Cambodia.

“I hope that JICA will be able to secure low-interest loans for Cambodian entrepreneurs and farmers so they can boost agricultural production for export to Japan,” he said.

In Lai Huot, owner of the Chey Sambor Cashew Nut Processing Handicrafts in Kampong Thom province, said she had signed a contract with a Japanese company to export 500 tonnes of processed nuts to Japan.

In order to meet the standards that the Japanese require, she said she needs to mobilise more capital, whether from development partners, the sate-owned Small and Medium Enterprise Bank of Cambodia Plc (SME Bank), or even commercial banks with high interest rates.

“Capital is a very important part of processing the raw nuts – we need international standard drying facilities and warehousing, as well as procurement budget so we can purchase them from farmers. If the ministry and its development partners can secure lower interest rate financing for us, it would help us – and other entrepreneurs in the industry – to expand without risk,” she said.

Cambodian Women Entrepreneurs Association (CWEA) president Keo Mom – who is also the CEO of Ly Ly Food Industry Co Ltd, one of the Kingdom’s largest food processing factories – said access to finance is one of the issues raised by the association in its latest report.

“Women entrepreneurs need capital to start their businesses. Most of them use high-interest commercial bank loans as they are unaware that the SME Bank offers more affordable interest rates. As the government encourages women entrepreneurs, they offer lower rates for some woman-owned companies,” she added.

She explained that the CWEA and SME Bank signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in September last year.

“Members of the association who apply for a loan from the SME Bank will receive an interest rate of about 0.25 per cent of the market rate. The SME Bank offers preferential interest rates to female-owned small and medium enterprises, provided they are correctly registered and fit the government’s priority areas,” she said.