Prime Minister Hun Sen called for a Green Belt to be established at the country’s main tourist areas to supply holiday-makers with locally produced vegetables and meat, instead of importing them from neighbouring countries.
Hun Sen made this call at the National Clean City Day celebrations yesterday, with the theme “Clean City Provides Warmth to People and Tourists.”
“Imports are fuelling the main supply of vegetables and meat at tourism sites,” said Hun Sen.
The prime minister said he wanted the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) to work together to set up a Green Belt for tourists.
“Why import, when we are able to give them [tourists] fresh vegetables grown locally and meat produced in the country,” said Hun Sen.
Last year, according to MAFF, Cambodia imported meat worth nearly $100 million and vegetables valued at $250 million.
Khim Bunsong, provincial governor of Siem Reap, supported Hun Sen’s call.
“For food safety purposes it is better to serve tourists, both local and foreign, with chemical-free vegetables and meat produced without the use of steroids and antibiotics,” said Bunsong.
He said local provincial authorities are collaborating with other bodies to meet local demand in markets, restaurants and hotels.
“We are trying with relevant officials and non-government organisations to establish areas where chemical-free vegetables can be grown to meet the needs of restaurants and hotels catering to tourists.”
Ho Vandy, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Tourism Alliance, said that the prime minister’s Green Belt initiative would meet the demand of big restaurants and hotels that are constantly in need of chemical-free vegetables and meat.
“Star-rated hotels and restaurants need organic vegetables and quality meat to serve to their customers,” said Vandy.
“If we meet their needs, it will be good not only for tourism but also for the income of farmers.”
Research conducted by the Center for Policy Studies indicated that 200 to 400 metric tons of vegetables are imported daily from neighbouring countries. The research also found that between $150 million and $250 million is spent annually on vegetable imports from Vietnam, Thailand and China.
In a bid to curb the huge capital outflow, the government has designated eight provinces to start boosting vegetable production from this year in a project called Boosting Food Projection 2017-2019.
The project has a budget of some $20 million, of which about $10 million is for the production of vegetables and other crops.
Last year Cambodia welcomed the arrival of five million foreign tourists – a five percent increase compared with 2015.