Agriculture Minister Veng Sokhon said he would ask Prime Minister Hun Sen to take action to help farmers compete against neighbouring countries, including further measures to address high electricity costs, as the sector mapped out its challenges for the year at a ministry-led forum in Phnom Penh yesterday.
The annual forum, held at the Phnom Penh Hotel, brought together businesses, farmers and government officials to discuss the sector’s ongoing challenges.
Addressing the forum, Sokhon said Cambodia had the potential to increase its agricultural production, but poor irrigation, infrastructure, technology and access to finance was compounding productivity woes. High electricity costs also remained an impediment to the sector’s competitiveness, he added.
“The main issues are costs and access to markets,” Sokhon said. “We need to seek investors who will work with the potential of our agricultural sector.”
The government was working to reduce the costs of electricity and transport, and had plans for developing a new seaport, expanding airports and capping electricity prices for SMEs and industrial users. However, electricity prices would still remain higher than in neighbouring countries, he said.
“We will prepare and send a report on the challenges to the prime minister to take action soon,” he said. “Even if we can’t solve everything immediately, we have to try our best to solve it step by step.”
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce Vice President Lim Heng, who attended the forum, reiterated that the main issue for the sector was the cost of production, which prevented enterprises from being able to compete with imports.
“The Ministry of Agriculture and the private sector have to work closely with each other in order to speed up [the development of] higher production,” he said after the forum. It was necessary to “reduce the cost of electricity or [be granted] tax exemptions in order to compete with imported products”, Heng added.
Among the forum’s participants was Chet Phirum, deputy director of the Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association, who said afterward that it was important to keep highlighting the challenges that hindered the sector’s development.
“The meetings have not yet led to satisfying results – the issues are still the same,” he said. “But at least we can raise our issues and hope they find a solution soon.”
In his niche, illegal pig imports were hurting local pig farmers, he said.
“We hope the government will take action,” Phirum said.