Cambodia reiterated the important role Australia plays in the development of its agriculture sector and urged leaders of the Commonwealth nation to support the modernisation of the industry through investments in modern factories and machinery.
Speaking at the Asean-Australia Business Summit last week in Sydney, Cambodian Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak praised Australia’s agricultural prowess and acknowledged their support in helping Cambodia’s agriculture industry develop.
He said the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Cardi) is an Australian initiative that has been pivotal in creating the high-quality, award-winning rice Cambodia is now able to produce.
“Other areas that Australia could help us in the future include the modernisation of our agriculture sector by investing in modern rice milling facilities, processing factories and equipment,” Mr Sorasak said.
Ouk Makara, director of Cardi, said Australia continues to support his institution through research programmes. He said there are now 15 projects that receive funding from Australia, most of them focusing on research on different varieties of rice, agricultural techniques, as well as land preparation, management and mapping.
“Australia supports both development and agricultural research,” Mr Makara said. “For research programmes, they also support and fund us through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.
“Our cooperation with Australia in agriculture is strong. They support us in human capital development and through research programmes,” he said.
Jayant Menon, lead economist at the Asian Development Bank, told Khmer Times that Australia has one of the most efficient agricultural sectors in the world; one that thrives with minimal government support, unlike in the European Union or the US.
“There is a lot that Cambodian agriculture can learn through greater cooperation with Australia. This comes at a time where Australia is looking to further strengthen ties with Cambodia, having just hosted the special summit in Sydney over the weekend,” Mr Menon said.
He added that Australia is a vast country, subject to frequent droughts, and has expertise in areas such as irrigation that it could share with Cambodia. He said the Australian government is already doing this through various programmes, but more support will be required in the future as extreme weather conditions become more common.
“Australia is also supporting the United Nation’ multi-donor initiative on de-mining, which would eventually reduce a serious risk factor in the rural sector, and increase land available for agriculture,” he added.
The Australian government last week agreed to give Cambodia nearly $68 million in development grants.
Around the same time, Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke in Sydney in front of a crow made up of members of the Cambodia diaspora and thanked the Australian government for their continuing support to the development of the kingdom.