Cambodia needs greater agricultural cooperation with China: minister

Banana vendors, selling the fruit off their motorcycles, wait for customers along a street in Phnom Penh on October 13, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina said here on Tuesday that the Southeast Asian nation is keen to forge closer cooperation in the agricultural sector with China in the coming years for mutual benefits.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Tina said Cambodia and China have solid agricultural cooperation as Cambodia has enjoyed exporting rice, bananas, mangoes, and most recently, longans to China.

"I am confident that we can grow this relationship even more in the years to come," he said. "I want to explore the possibility of deeper cooperation between the two countries, not just about the import and export of agricultural produce but also about cultural exchange."

The minister said for students, there should be opportunities for exchange programs and scholarships to top Chinese universities to learn new agricultural knowledge, and field trips to the relevant Chinese government departments for officials.

"For businesses, there could be opportunities to attend trade shows and engage in business-to-business (B2B) meetings through the various chambers of commerce to explore new options for trade and to understand the demands of the Chinese markets and consumers directly," Tina said.

"For farmers, there could be study trips and field visits to learn from and tap into the vast knowledge of the Chinese people."

Speaking of the exports of Cambodian agricultural products to China, the minister said from 2019 to the end of June 2022, Cambodia exported a total of 2.4 million tons of agricultural products to China, with a total export value of 1.94 billion U.S. dollars.

"This data confirms that the Chinese market still has much potential to absorb more Cambodian agricultural products and that neither country has yet used the maximum potential in this sector," he said.

"From this, I would like to encourage all stakeholders of the two countries to promote closer cooperation to find new, better, and more effective ways to respond to the potential we have."

China is assured of quality products from Cambodia that confirm the sanitary and phytosanitary requirements of China, Tina said, adding that in addition, many Cambodian agricultural products are farmed organically and fit the needs of many Chinese consumers.

"The close proximity between our two countries also ensures the freshness of the produce," he said.

Meanwhile, the minister expressed his desire to see more Chinese investment in the agricultural sector, saying that Chinese enterprises have vast experience in this field.

"Cambodia is ready to promote further cooperation with and new investment from China in agriculture to serve the mutual benefits of the two peoples and to push our bilateral trade volume to a new high," he said.

"So far, China has authorized the import of Cambodian agricultural and fishery products, including rice, mango, banana, longan, and Pangasius catfish, which have injected new impetus into our cooperation and brought substantial benefits to the two peoples," he added.

Sharing his view on the benefits of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal and the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) for the agricultural development of Cambodia, the minister said the RCEP and the CCFTA are all free trade agreements that mutually open the market in all countries.

"Both FTAs will contribute to not only the agriculture sector's growth but also the farmers' welfare and prosperity," he said.