Exports in the miscellaneous vegetables category from January to May rose 9.22 percent year-on-year, according to the latest figures from the Department of Agriculture, despite concerns from industry players who say there have been few transportation options and a lack of local agricultural infrastructure did hamper growth.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, France accounted for the overwhelming majority of exports at 39.78 tonnes or 99.9 percent, followed by New Zealand at 0.04 tonnes.
The miscellaneous vegetables category consists of cucumbers, cabbage, choy sum, broccoli and cauliflower and excludes popular Cambodian crops such as mung beans, soybeans, rice, peppercorns, chili peppers and cassava.
Sok Yorn, vice president of the Siem Reap province-based Cambodia Safe Fish, Meat and Vegetables Association, told The Post that crop yields have not been as high as desired, despite the Ministry of Agriculture introducing a number of new strategies to strengthen domestic vegetable growing .
He said the kingdom’s agricultural sector is still not growing as fast as it could because it lacks local agricultural fertilizer factories, proper storage facilities, cultivation techniques and markets. The sector’s growth has also been hampered by high levels of illegal imports, he added.
As a result, Yorn said, Cambodia still relies on heavy vegetable imports from neighboring countries.
“In order for Cambodia’s agricultural sector to develop rapidly, the authorities need to provide more support in planting techniques, irrigation systems and reducing production costs [by providing agricultural fertilisers] and provide financial support,” he said.
Yorn added that such growth must also consider the ability to keep vegetable yields hygienic and of high quality. “However, most agricultural products have not reached the quality and crop protection standards required for export, which requires more attention from growers and agricultural authorities,” he said.
The federation president added that any increase in cultivation rates would result in an increased capacity to supply fruit and vegetables for export.
Chan Pich, general manager of Signatures of Asia Co Ltd, which exports ground rice and vegetables, said a lack of flights during the Covid-19 pandemic has prompted the company to halt vegetable exports.
He said that despite Cambodia’s reopening in November, flight frequency remained low and that other modes of transport would take too long and spoil the vegetables en route. “We have not contacted our customers to resume exports,” he added.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon said late last year that Cambodia’s cultivation and export of agricultural products has increased since the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said the ministry has laid out a series of measures to support and increase production and quality to meet domestic demand and exports.
The Ministry’s Directorate-General for Agriculture said Cambodia exported 7.98 million tons of agricultural products to 68 countries and regions in 2021, increasing the total volume by 63.83 percent from 2020 figures and net sales of nearly 4.97 means billions of dollars.