Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished National and International Guests,
Teachers, Students and all Participants!

Today, I am very pleased to participate in the Closing of the Annual Conference of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 2012-2013, and Direction Setting 2013-2014, and inaugurate an academic building located in the campus of the Royal University of Agriculture.  At the outset, I would like to express my warm welcome to Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished national and international guests, lecturers and all students who have attended this meaningful closing conference.  This conference is truely providing additional meaning to our society because this event has provided an opportunity for a gathering, exchange of ideas, and review of various achievements we have accomplished in agriculture sector by verifying with the indicators that we have raised in the past years.  With this regard, we have generally received an appropriate opportunity to collect all experiences and new measures to continue preparing strategic plan with consistency and clear-cut goal for agriculture development and promote further active participation from all ministries-institutions, development partners, private sector and communities in order to ensure working efficiency, competitiveness and the establishment of new creation, which is the foundation to sustain the economic growth now and in the future in our society.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to highly evaluate the management and officials in all levels of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries who have worked hard with responsibility to achieve numerous achievements in 2012, in which there is another new academic building to be officially inaugurated now.  Those efforts moderately response to the agriculture and human resources development.  For now, I would like to also support the establishment of the faculty of rubber science in order to respond to the fast growing of the rubber sector in Cambodia today.  In this spirit, I firmly believe that we all will physically and mentally try our utmost effort to continue the cooperation in implementing its role to achieve new targets for the interest of our socio-economic development in the coming years.

The agriculture sector today is still playing significant role in promoting local production growth, job creation, and contributing to the poverty reduction of the people.  Besides, the agriculture sector will continue the basic role for economic growth and socio-economic development in Cambodia in the coming decades although Cambodia has diversified her economy, including industrialization.  Practically, the agricultural sector is not only to ensure food security, but also contribute to the socio-economic development of the nation.  In this sense, if we look at the outcome of the Cambodia economic performance in 2012 we have seen that Cambodia achieved the growth of 7.3%, the Gross Domestic Product per capita increased from USD 760 in 2008 to approximately USD 1000 in 2012, and we expect that in the year 2013 it will reach more than USD 1000.  This outcome is basically resulted from the annual growth of agriculture, industry and services.  It is noted that the export of agricultural products, especially the export of rice and other important products have also been on the rise.  Practically, if we take note of the quantity of rice export in the first three months of this year, it increased to 95.228 tons, while the first three months in 2012 was only 36.430 tons, which means that it increased by 161.4%. Therefore, the growth in agricultural sector is not only improving our economy but also transforming the red dry land to become the green area in all seasons, as well as allowing our youths in rural area to be employed, reducing migration, and improving their livelihood.

Based on the report made by H.E Chan Sarun, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the agriculture sector has grown in average about 4.3% in 2012, in which the rice production was about 3 million hectars, and the land of 2.98 million hectars could be cultivated, and the average yield per year in both dry and rainy seasons is 3.117 tons per hectar, totally we have received the unmilled rice of 9.29 million tons or approximately 4.73 million tons, which is another success for Cambodia.  In general, we can evaluate that the rice yield from year to year has been on the rise with pride, especially during the last 2 decades, and the rice production is still a primary production to sustain the living standard of the people in the rural area and export for economic growth.

At the same time, we have further promoted the agriculture production in all directions, especially the strategic cultivation such as rubber that is more impressively moving and other industrial crops as well as the animal rearing and aquaculture that is not only responding to the need of domestic food security but also support economic growth.  However, we must increase attention to ensure that our agriculture sector is still strong and we are able to sustain with the external crisis such as food price crisis, natural disasters, flood and climate change.  Moreover, we have also to pay attention to the building of supporting infrastructure, including irrigation network and rural infrastructure, land ownership allocation, increased access to new technology, and agriculture intensification service, and market information.

In this sense, Cambodia will put more efforts in developing physical infrastructures and continue to restore the supporting foundation to expand agriculture potential in order to contribute to accelerate and enlarge the national economic size.  This is a firm willingness of the Royal Government who have always abided by and implemented over the period of 30 years. This commitment has made the poverty rate decline continually since the bare hand in 1979 to 22.9% in 2009 and to about 20% in 2012.  We have also expected that this poverty rate will further decline to under 19% in 2013.  In the future, we will try our best to drag down the poverty rate until the elimination of the poverty through the continued development of agriculture and economic diversification.

At this point, I would like to re-emphasize that although the agriculture sector in Cambodia has been in much progress, the Royal Government with me as a Prime Minister, will not implement the taxation on agricultural land.

No Tax on Household Agricultural Land – CPP Policy

I think we need to make this point clear. Charging tax on household agricultural land is not and will not be the policy pursued by the Cambodian People’s Party, even though there are increasing number of farmers. I would reassure that whether there will or will not be my presence, I am urging the leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party, whoever will continue the Party’s policy, not to impose tax on household agricultural land. We need to do everything we can so that our people will benefit. With their benefits, people will spend and we will charge them the value added tax for whatever they will buy.

To impose no land tax is like helping them right in the field. For example, they need to spend one or two hundred thousand Riel per hectare as tax. When we do not charge tax from them, they could use the money for something else, like purchasing a bicycle for their kids or other agricultural utensils. This is my will and I make it clear now that we will never impose tax on household agricultural land. However, this is the policy set out and supported by the Cambodian People’s Party only. I do not know what other Parties would do on this matter. They are talking about increasing salary, I doubt if they could do it without increasing taxation.

Well, that is their problem. As for the time that the Cambodian People’s Party rules, whether there will be or will not be me, I wish to make this will clear to all that no such tax will be imposed.

In this context, I am still optimistic that the promotion of agricultural productivity and diversification is still the major priority of Cambodia either in the current economic situation or in the future as mentioned that “Cambodia is an Agricultural Country”.  In this spirit, and in an aim to contribute to what we have been implementing so far and in order to further promote the development of this sector to support the Cambodian economy, I would like to take this opportunity to provide a number of additional recommendations to be used as foundation for implementation and information sharing.  These include:

First: Must continue promoting the progress in agricultural sector in an average of 3%-4% per year by having to diversifying both productivity and diversification, and export.  In this connection, it is necessary for us to strengthen and expand supporting physical infrastructure, applied experimentation, and modern technological transfer, appropriate knowledge in all subjects related to the improvement of production in all kinds of crops, especially rice in order to change the perception of the farmers from self-sufficient farming to agri-business farming responding to the opportunity of growth of world food security, which is regarded as “golden opportunity” for Cambodia.  At the same time, we have to implement actively on the Agriculture Census through the Kingdom of Cambodia that was just started at the beginning of this year to be more successful because of the fact that the creation of agriculture statistic system is a necessary foundation to prepare comprehensive strategic policy for agricultural development.  For now the task that needs to be promoted is the observation, assessment, and doing inventory on the use of agricultural land all over the country, aiming to get the clear data to be used as inputs to serve the preparation of agricultural development and defining a number of cultivation areas to orient the agriculture intensification and diversification with high economic efficiency sustainability of the use of agricultural land.

Second: Must encourage the compilation and capacity building of agricultural community all over the country that is the foundation for agriculture development by means of consolidation in partnership with the private sector in the framework of contract farming and best practice in agriculture, that will assist the farmers throughout the country to receive new technologies, sufficient credit, and ensure stability of product supply to the market either quantity or quality.

Third: The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, the Ministry of Planning, Supreme National Economic Council must jointly study the issue in order to solve the issue of agro-industry, meaning that promoting the farming product based industry in order to be processed as final products for local consumption and export to speed up this sector to add more value to the farming products and increase income for our farmers.

Fourth: I would like to highly appreciate the efforts and initiatives made in boosting the mechanization of agriculture in the process of production and processing instead of using the labor forces at the rural areas that was absorbed by the sectors of industry, services, and employment market abroad.  In this particular case, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries must review and encourage the establishment of craft or factories of partially or whole installing the agriculture machineries in order to avoid the total import from the foreign countries to some extent.

Fifth: Must encourage and enhance the animal rearing in all forms according to a clear agricultural standard in both animal and animal feeds among farmers, medium and mega farmlands.  At the same time, we must encourage investment on the establishment of factories for animal feeds, production of animal food medicines, the creation of animal slaughterhouse with high standard in order to ensure the supply of animal meat and animal products with hygiene, quality, and safety for domestic market and export and increase income to the animal feeders and national economy.  We must also prepare a comprehensive strategic plan for the development of animal production based on the progress of globalization.

On Issue of Pig Imported from Abroad

While talking about this issue, I have seen on TV about the proposal made by HE Mong Rithy, Head of the Private Sector’s Agricultural Working Group in relation to import of pig from abroad. I would suggest two ideas for him so that he could think about it and bring it out for more discussion with our people and for taking further measures. I would urge on this matter that we have to look at the whole forest and not at just a single tree. Take for example if there is increasingly high demand, no matter how many you have in your stock – in pork or beef, you may have problem ensuring the supply. If in that case we prohibit import of meat, we would firstly be against the rules set out by the World Trade Organization, but secondly, would also cause reciprocal inflation that is going to be destructive to the economy.

We should be careful with this view. As we all can see now, we have a balance between demand and supply for the fact that there is contribution from local animal husbandry and from import from abroad. We had better think harder about what would be the consequences if we were to prohibit import from foreign countries. A fundamental reform in fisheries did bring the price of fish down, but we should bear in mind that fish is not the only source of protein that our people need. We should therefore think harder about its repercussion. I am therefore urging you to figure out the growing demand and ability to respond from local husbandry.

Secondly, in 2015, if I should remind you, only two years more, we will have this ASEAN Community thing. We should try to find a better way to produce low-cost animal feeding, as I recommended just now, or we will not be able to give answer to the question. I think this is the answer and I would urge no administrative measures. We should figure out economic measures in place of administrative ones. When the ASEAN Community is here for real, there will be no barriers as all doors will be open. We will have certain goods that we can push in to regional markets but we also have to allow goods from other countries to compete in our market.

It is a reciprocal approach. We will engage in the game and compete. If we were to place trade barrier from now, it will be destructive when the time comes because a sudden shutting down of pig/pork import would indeed create demand for beef, chicken and/or fish. On that instant, they would ask for a higher price.

The question here is why our neighboring countries are raising animal at a cheaper cost than we would, and they can sell them to us. I am sure animal feeding cost should be one of them. How to produce low-cost animal feeding would be a question. I wish to add further that administrative measure is not going to bring about real economic growth. One would apply it only when it is necessary.

As we are also a member of the World Trade Organization, we should try to familiarize ourselves with the trend, as there are two more years only to get to ASEAN Economic Community. Closing our country would also lead to others to do in reciprocation.

When all will do that, it is a disaster. Recently, Minister of Trade, HE Cham Prasidh and his Thai counterpart have worked out to resolve the problem concerning agricultural products in the western part of our country. Prime Minister Yingluck (of Thailand) also talked to me lately that the trade issue between the two countries has made improvement.

Thais will buy our agricultural products in Banteay Meanjei, Uddar Meanjei, Battambang, Pailin, etc.. What will happen if we stop their pig from coming in? Based on that report I noted on TV, I suggest that the Head of the Agricultural Working Group reconsiders this matter. We cannot afford to think only about pork without considering its repercussion on beef, chicken and fish. I would seek our people’s understanding on this matter because we cannot afford to neglect the need of our people in the whole country for local families who raise pig. I respect the right for private sector to share their opinion with the Royal Government but there has to be point that the Royal Government could and could not accept.

We should think about diversifying animal husbandry to make it cheaper in Cambodia. We may allow certain protection so that our people can produce animal feeding at a lower cost. In fact, the cost of producing animal feeding in Thailand and Vietnam should be higher than in Cambodia. Why could they do it cheaper than us? They sell it to us. In trade, there is a reciprocal relation. If we refuse their product, they would do the same to ours.

As for restriction on pig with disease, yes it is important for us to observe strictly. I would ask for joint efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Health. As far as restriction concerning disease, we have been careful on their goods and they are to our goods too. There are two different issues here (1) the restriction of movement of animal for diseases and (2) import pig jeopardizes local animal husbandry industry. I would urge a thorough clarification and explanation on this issue to our people.

Sixth: All levels of sub-national authorities, police, military police, armed forces, and related institutions must close cooperate with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to prevent the spread of Bird Flue (H5N1) that is still threatening Cambodia and other countries in the region and we should not overlook the outbreak of the new Bird Flue (H7N9) that has not happened in Cambodia yet.  The sub-national authorities and related institutions must continue participating to prevent the illegal movement of animals along the border provinces.

Preventing Import of Disqualified Food Products

We have taken measures already and the implementation has commenced. We still have some loopholes. More efforts need to address this shortcoming. Flow of imported animal without management and inspection has reduced but more also need to be carried out. As we have all learned that we use to have cases concerning disqualified chicken legs imported from other country. However, we seem to have seen less of those chicken legs these days. Still we are seeing chicken legs on sale. We need to strengthen prevention of importation of disqualified food products.

Seventh: Must pay attention to cluster family rubber community by increasing support in technicality, especially the selection of seeds, maintenance, treatment, harvest, and processing, and we must encourage the development of agro-industry rubber in the economic land concession allocated by the Royal Government to the local and foreign investors for large scale development, and on the hand it will be used as a core of family rubber development in the region to increase the value chain to be more economically efficient including the improvement of quality, processing, packaging, and the commercialization of rubber products according to international standard.  At this point, the Cambodian Institute for Rubber Research must cooperate with the companies that have received the economic land concession in order to encourage the import of highly yielded rubber seed and eliminate the low productivity rubber seed.  We must also expand the experiment location and strengthen technical aspects related to rubber and capacity building on the management of seed, selection of seed, breeding and dissemination in both quantity and quality.

I would like to mention a bit on the results we have achieved and what we will achieve in the future on the development of rubber crop.  Until 2012, the Royal Government has provided economic land concession of 1.5 million hectares, in which the rubber sector covers 80% or 1.2 million hectares.  At the present, the cultivated land is 300,000 hectares using the workers of 100,000 people.  During the next 5 years, 70% of rubber plantation will be cultivated and harvested on the land of 840,000 hectares using workers of 1.3 million.  In total, the rubber crop will create jobs for 1.3 million people, which is contribution to improve the living standard of the people and increase Cambodia economic potential.  Thus, rubber development is our necessary and urgent task.  At this point, I would like to illustrate that Cambodia has used the forest cover of 1.5 million hectares for economic land concession, and Cambodia still has the forest cover of 9.2 million hectares.

This is the reflection of striking the balance between the necessity in creating jobs for the people to reduce poverty and migration and the necessity to protect the environment and management of natural resources.  Besides, the Royal Government realizes that rubber is also forest, thus, the rubber of 1.2 million hectares will create jobs for 1.3 million people is the contribution to maintain the forest cover as well as improving the living standard of our people.

Rubber – Land Coverage and Profit Making

On this point, we need to look ahead to the future like 2030 when Cambodia, according to its goal, would be going from lower-middle income country, after passing the state of low-income country this year, to higher-middle income country. We would try the best to push Cambodia out of lower-middle income trap and our goal has been set so by 2030. Looking onward, when we complete our plan for irrigation system, we will be able to increase our production from the current state that we could export up to three million tons of rice while only a certain area of our rice field cultivates twice a year. With irrigation system in place, we will be able to strengthen intensive farming system.

As far as rubber is concerned, its competitive state and demand for rubber is not wining down. Rubber and rice bear the same state of competition and demand. Rubber, once bigger, is considered as forest coverage too. Promoting rubber plantation on economic land concession and/or land that have been measured and issued title for the people in the framework of existing policy on land issue, would increase land under rubber. We will then have more land under forest coverage and people will generate economic benefit from their rubber too. According to Mak Kimhong, the price for rubber today has stayed at 2450 USD per ton.

In Malaysia, their forest coverage is palm oil tree and rubber too. They make their country green by replacing them to former natural forest. They cleared them and grew in their places trees with more economic values. I think we will need to encourage more cultivation of rubber.

There are more and more people like to grow rubber between one to five and ten hectares on their land. Some of you who have studied and wished to establish Institute of Agriculture could do a great deal to help them. They definitely need your expertise. Also a possibility, they’d send family members to learn the skills and techniques in growing, managing and taking care of rubber because they have to look after their rubber.

Eighth: The comprehensive reform in the fisheries sector, that I have led nationwide, has been contributing significantly to reducing the inflation in Cambodia since 2011.  In this regard, I would like to recommend the Fisheries Administration to continue implementing the 7 recommendations set out by the Royal Government in increasing the activities to crack down fishing crimes, protect the fisheries reservation, increase cooperation with the provincial, municipal, district authorities, armed forces in all levels, implement practical action in strengthening the implementation of fisheries law in order to prevent fisheries crime and maintain fisheries resources.  Moreover, we must improve the capacity of fishing community that has been set up already to become a fishing community with no fisheries crime as well as promoting the feeding of fish in the pond, fishing BE and farm, and try to set up community fishing pond in every commune all over the country.  At the same time, we must further carry out the research on the natural stock in both freshwater and salt water and prepare strategy for adaptation to the climate change on fisheries in order to be prepared in reducing the incidental impacts with the objective to promote the productivity of fisheries to serve the current and future need.

Ninth: Must absolutely stop every activities of cutting, burning, grabbing forest land for ownership after May 7, 2012.  Those who have done this must be sent to court for punishment according to the forest law.  I would like to appeal to all people to plant trees everywhere, especially plant the crop trees on your land of ownership that was measured by the voluntary youth so far in order to contribute to the reduction of climate change and global warming, and I request the competent authorities especially all officials of the Fisheries Administration to cooperate with the Working Groups at the national and sub-national levels and voluntary youths to continue implementing the new activities of old policy on land sector in all provinces-municipalities to be more active.

At the same time, we must continue implementing the order I have recently put out with efficiency on the crackdown of forestry crimes, especially Krog Ngoung wood with highest efficiency.  Also, each concerned technical institution must continue to verify constantly the activities of investment of the companies that have received the economic land concession and signed the contract with the Royal Government in order to ensure the process of investment as well as preventing other passive acts that may occur with regard to this economic land concession.

Rosewood to Be Listed as Endangered Plants

As for the rosewood issue, I have brought it up in the meetings of CLV, CLMV and ACMECS as well. In last March, HE Cham Prasidh also suggested further measure that the Ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries would write a letter to seek inclusion of rosewood into the list of endangered plants. I already approved the suggestion. Cambodia may not be the place where there are many rosewood but where rosewood transits. They chop them down elsewhere and bring them into Cambodia. With it listed as endangered plant, no one would dare buy it.

Fresh Water Supply Shortage in Preah Sihanoukville

Please allow me to speak a little about the fact that we encountered lack of fresh water supply in the city of Preah Sihanoukville. I have not had a clear indication as to why the problem happened yet. However, I instructed HE Sbaong Sarat, governor of the province, to make effort in channeling fresh water down from the river of Kbal Chhay. I have seen they did it but I still do not have the thorough account why there was this incident that there was shortage of fresh water supply to the city. I do not know whether the Preah Sihanouk Water Headquarters does not want to purchase water from Kbal Chhay or what. I think the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy who is responsible in this issue should conduct a study. However, I would have your attention on the source of fresh and clean water.

It is not only the case of the city of Preah Sihanouk. Wood is a major problem. In fact, there would not be shortage of water. But it happened. What remains to resolve is that those who have land in the area must make further efforts, if they do not use their land for industrial purpose, to grow long-term crops to increase more green coverage, which we hope will attract more rain, prevent land erosion and wash-off, while protecting the sea from encroaching upon mainland. This should be an issue of attention and consideration for all not just Preah Sihanouk city. I instructed the ANCO Company to extent its pipe to the city. It took a week. Why so long and who was responsible? Is it not because they did not want to buy water from the Company and continue to resolve the problem with limited resources?

Re-grow Forest in Kbal Chhay Area

I would urge our people to make further effort to grow long-term crop and trees like rubber or others that will be there for a long time and attract rain as well. The Forest Administration must cooperate with concerned sectors and development partners, the private sector included, especially the ANCO Company, to restore the depleted forestland in Kbal Chhay and re-grow long-term trees in the natural forest in place of short-term trees. We have to take serious measures to take care of the Kbal Chhay water reservoir to keep water for the city. We cannot afford to allow that happen since the Preah Sihanouk province is the second economic pole of the country. We have here industry, service, seaport, etc.

The provincial authority of Preah Sihanouk province must take every measure to prevent land claiming and to reinforce natural resource management in accordance with the order already issued. We should not resort to water from underground. I also instructed the project manager of Koh Puos development to run a water pipe from the city and not to take water from underground. From where do we take the water to Koh Puos? It will be from Kbal Chhay.

CPP Lacks Human Resource?

There have been some comments that the Cambodian People’s Party is lacking human resource to be a candidate for the post of Prime Minister. I wish to elaborate a bit in response to that. I think they have gone a bit to the extreme.

The other day they said I could only be a primary school teacher. I accept that. Right before the Khmer New Year, they said the Cambodian People’s Party is short of candidate for the post of Prime Minister because there has been only one man for it. I would call the person my junior brother, though he may be about my age, a bit older or younger. What is the most important thing is that the person used to come asking me for advices in 2006-2007 on whether he should create a Party or go on to be NGO.

As far as this matter is concerned, the ‘younger brother’ should not be too obtuse. In politics, if the Cambodian People’s Party is proposing incapable man to the post, it is rewarding you because you will be able to bewilder him. He used to come for advice from this Primary School teacher. I now continue to advise him that if the Cambodian People’s Party proposes incapable candidate for the elections, you should be happy because he may not get elected.

1 Why should you cry fool about that? It is so obtuse that you let it out. How can you win the elections? If Hun Sen is not a capable candidate and the CPP runs his candidacy for the elections, you should let the CPP do that because it will be at your advantage.

There is one point that I want to share with everyone. With Hun Sen in power, everyone – those who scold or appreciate – can live together. In 2008, they said (if they get elected) all commune heads will go to jail and on last 17 April they said they would bring the leaders of the Royal Government to trial. In 1998, another story not to forget, they call for the US to fire missile into my house in Takhmao. All these are what they wish to do even when they do not have power. What would they really do when they have power?

In February and March 1975, no one could have known if it were Pol Pot or anyone in the National United Front but they appealed that they would bring Lon Nol, Sirik Matak, Cheng Heng, In Tam, General Sostene to trial. They did. The whole country turned into a genocidal regime. You may think that if Hun Sen were to order (police head General) Net Savoeun to confine and arrest leaders of the opposition, he would do it right away. Did Hun Sen do that? Well, they talked about a great demonstration but there were about 1,000 people joining them …

Once again, I would like to highly appreciate and commend the management and officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, who have put efforts in actively contributing with high responsibility to build achievements in the sector of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and I would like you all to continue this good tradition in order to overcome all obstacles and achieve success based on the set vision.  Along with that, I would like to appeal to all related ministries-institutions, sub-national administration, armed forces, development partners, national and international organizations, private sector and community to continue participating in all forms to assist our farmers and national agriculture development to be further progressed with pride, especially the integration in the context of globalization and participation in building ASEAN Community by 2015.

Before ending, I would like to once again appeal to Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, lecturers and students and all participants to be more active in implementing the key points raised, as well as trying to share information, knowledge and experiences gained from this conference to officials, staffs, colleagues for the improvement of working implementation and duties in their respective sub-sectors so that we can achieve additional new achievements according to our National Agriculture Development Strategy.

At the end, along with the Closing of the Annual Conference of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries 2012-2013, and Direction Setting 2013-2014, and the Official Inauguration of an Academic Building now, I would like to wish Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, lecturers, students, and all participants the four gems of Buddhist blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Health, and Strength./.