Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, I have a great honor and pleasure to address this very important 2003-2004 stock taking conference of agriculture, forestry, and fishery. Here, I also happy to share my view, with your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, regarding the many challenges in advancing development policies in agriculture. Indeed, this has been progressed along with other efforts in “reform policies” of decentralization and de-concentration taken by the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC), with the aim of reducing the poverty.
Taking this opportunity, on the behalf of the RGC and my own self, I would like to extend my congratulation and appreciation to the management team, all the civil servants, staff and workers of the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) for their tremendous efforts, including good cooperation with international partners in achieving the objectives and overcoming challenges faced during 2003, attaining positive and encouraging results.
I have followed the report of His Excellency the Minister of MAFF on the two days conference, clearly indicating the results of the conference. May, I also express my sincere thanks to all participants that have taken part in this conference. Particularly, my thanks go to those who have expressed their opinions in an open manner and provided many constructive recommendations to address the challenges in term of policies, infrastructure and the working system. This has also helped identifying the strengths and weaknesses for consideration in the adoption of strategies and other additional measures to improve the capacity, ensure the progress and the dynamic development of the sector, contributing to successful implementation of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Indeed, in implementing the development strategies for the past 5 years, the RGC has successfully achieved many objectives and progress, especially in term of peace, security and social order, prosperity, cooperation and progress. Particularly, in the international cooperation, there have been considerable results. Cambodia has gained strong support from international and donor community in its rehabilitation and development efforts.
This presents the success of the second component of the RGC’s Triangle Strategy, — the key factor for guaranteeing good result of the third component of the strategy, the policy agenda of socio-economic rehabilitation and development, where agriculture is one of the priority sectors. In fact, we have observed gradual growth of economic activities, such as the increase in trade, investment and tourism. All these have been key factors for job creation and income generation, thus finally leading to poverty reduction and better welfare for Cambodian people.
We all aware that 36% of Cambodian population lives below the poverty line, while 90% of the poor live in rural areas. Thus fighting the poverty in Cambodia, one must begin with the improvement in the rural livelihoods, through agricultural development and food security. Indeed, even a little progress in agriculture sector it will have a big and positive impact on social and economic status of many Cambodian poor. This is because agriculture remains a “number one” sector contributing the most to the economic growth and development, that it is a primary source of employment for rural population.
I strongly believe that sustainable management and use of natural resources would contribute to poverty reduction. In this sense, the MAFF and other relevant institutions must find out what we can do more to help household farmers in developing local agriculture in term of improved food security, quality of work and outputs, as well as opportunity creation for income generation, for the poorest and vulnerable groups.
In the last year conference, I also emphasized that one of the priorities of the RGC is the development of agricultural sector, considering reasons of stagnant growth in agricultural outputs to find common solution to restore this sector. I also recommended 9 points with respect to each key area, which the MAFF ha assigned all its units to implement. As we can see now, there have been fruitful results, though we still face the many challenges need to be settled on a continued basis. Indeed, we have overcome many constrains and obstacles, helping increase the rice yield, one of the main crops ensuring food security. The output has exceeded last year level, resulting in more than one millions surplus for export. Thus, we should be proud of this achievement!
In particular, I have noted that because of the favorable market environment and economic growth, a semi-industrial production of livestock has grown up noticeably. This year, we have faced the unfortunate event of bird flu outbreak, which has affected the whole world. Thus, may I express my appreciations to the MAFF as well as relevant ministries/department and other donor communities that have had an effective cooperation and implemented preventive measures on time to put the bird flu case under control and eventually eliminating it.
Another important thing that I have also observed is our continuing growth rate, with high increase in rubber price in the international market (up to USD1,450/ton in the Malaysian and Thai market), while last year the price was only USD600/ton. Indeed, this price still at its low level compared to the 1995-1996 price that reached USD2,300/ton. Thus, these are the key factors the MAFF has to pay additional attention to increase rubber productivity, in order to be able to compete in the international market.
Moreover, research activities and selection of best seeds that would give higher quality and increased productivity of rice, industrial and other crops, the use of agricultural chemicals, natural fertilizers and expanding the irrigation system remain the issues requiring greater attention in order to ensure the quality and quantity of production for export to ASEAN and international markets.
With the aim to strengthen the momentum gained in the reform of agriculture and other development programs which have produced good results, I would like to take this opportunity to share my recommendations and discuss some other specific issues with MAFF and concerned institutions. It is intended to add on the set targets and address the works which have not been fully accomplished during the past year. Those include:
1. We shall focus our effort on further enhancing existing irrigation system, including the maintenance and repair works, and the strengthening of institutional capacity in improving water resource management and the provision of key services supporting the agriculture. This especially covers timely intervention by the government in the events of natural disaster, to help the farmers gained greater control over floods and calamities. As a gesture of goodwill, I urge the private companies and able families to help provide our farmers with water as much as you can.
2. The promotion of agricultural product processing for household use and import substitution is important. This would serve as a key instrument to address the issue of market access for raw and processed, value added agricultural products. Moreover, we shall strengthen the implementation of legal framework with regard to land concession in order to encourage the existing and prospective investors in the ago industry. This is crucial for bringing investors, whose role is a producer, a farmer, a processor and a marketer, close to farmers who are their partners.
3. Our cultivation is still dependent on nature. Thus, the responsible departments and provincial offices of agriculture, forestry and fisheries shall conduct studies and reviews on potential crops and seeds to be planted for each individual location, according to the changing agronomical system and socio-economic and marketing environment, especially focusing on higher value added crops.
4. In the livestock production and veterinary service, the issue of preventing movement of animal products is still a hot issue where the implementation has been negative, especially the outbreak of all kinds of animal diseases such as the birth flu.
5. The management of agricultural inputs shall be further improved, especially enabling the farmers to have appropriate supply of equipments and materials through the formulation of laws and regulation on agricultural input standards in the market. This requires the MAFF to take stringent measures in the effective management and control, thus avoiding the attempt of disposing foreign out-of-date “technology waste” into Cambodia.
6. The Institute for Agricultural Research and Development shall continue its research activities on key agricultural crops, which is a priority of the Royal Government contributing to the establishment of “One Village One Product”. We shall also improve the productivity of organic crops in the region especially rice, and promote the management and conservation of genetic resource of traditional crops for sustainable use and exploitation.
7. Cambodia has the type of climate and fertile land which are good for rubber. With abundant labor force available, it will allow for sustainable future development of rubber plantation and finally the poverty reduction in the rural areas. In this sense, I propose the MAFF and the General Department of Rubber Plantation to consider the following activities in order to advance the works in this field:
- Conduct studies on rubber species, breeding technology, processing and production of rubber products and so on.
- Promote the development of rubber plantation within at the state, private sector and household levels across the entire country, through mobilization of investments both from domestic and foreign sources, including grants and loans from international financial institutions.
- Promote research on techniques and procedures to improve the quality of Cambodian rubber so that it meets the international standard, thus enjoying greater market access, more clients and higher price. This effort will especially respond to the requirement of the International Rubber Association in helping promote the quality of Cambodian rubber to be competitive in the world market.
8. Further promote research on inland fisheries covering the areas of biology, ecology and fishing activity, which includes the promotion of fish raising by rural farmers and the prevention of use of illegal equipments harmful to fish stock and biodiversity. Moreover, continue implement better management of fishing areas in all provinces. In cooperation with concerned ministries/institutions, the management of maritime fisheries shall be strengthened by studying the natural stocks and designating conservation sites which is crucial and urgent for maintaining biodiversity, marine natural resource and the balanced and sustainable use of the resource.
9. With regard to forestry, I would like to declare unauthorized use of all kinds of saw machine illegal and strict control over its use shall be imposed. All saws captured and seized from illegal activities shall be destroyed as we have done with illegal fishing equipments. Moreover, I urge all the RCAF, concerned ministries/institutions and local authorities to cooperate with the Forestry Administration to crack down on all activities, including deforestation (cutting trees and firing forest), incursion on forest lands and other forest and wildlife crimes. Thus, the policy of transparent forest exploitation, prevention of and cracking down on all forest crimes will remain our vigilant work, requiring steadfast cooperation and efforts.
10. Further focus on the development of human resource, especially the promotion of personnel information management system, which will enable proper management, distribution and use of staff at all levels, according to their knowledge, technical skills and expertise. Moreover, attention shall be paid on strengthening and promoting responsibility in assigning staff to help disseminate information on agricultural techniques to farmers in the remote areas.
We all are aware that sustainable development including the management and use of natural resource cannot be achieved without addressing the poverty issue. Along with this, it requires clear and realistic policies, planning and programs, as well as the political will in the implementation and mobilization of support from the society, in order to reach the set targets. Indeed, Cambodia, within the globalization context and as a member of ASEAN, shall develop wider frameworks and arrangements for a productive yet flexible cooperation in agriculture sector. This will cover not only the cooperation with individual member country but also the whole regional cooperation.
In this meaningful occasion, on behalf of the People and RGC may I extend my profound gratitude to our development partners and donor community, as well as to all the IOs and NGOs for their proactive contribution, for the cause of poverty reduction and sustainable development in Cambodia. In particular, I thank you for either financial, technical or spiritual support which have helped us achieve considerable progress in the reform of agriculture sector promising better future for our Cambodian people. I particularly thank the WB and ADB for the credits and aids provided to Cambodia to support the development of agriculture during the period of 1997-2005, which have had very good and encouraging results. Thus, I urge the two IFIs to continue their support after the programs end in the coming year.
I am strongly convinced of the achievements and directions for 2004-2005 agreed by the conference, which are based on the extensive recommendations drawn on experiences in the past. I also hope the government officials will work hard in performing their respective function and gaining new innovation and techniques in the spirit of responsibility, thus helping realize the government policy to be highly effective. In addition, I would like to congratulate and appreciate the conference for its good results.
Once again, I thank all the government officials, staff and workers of the MAFF as well as those of other concerned ministries/institutions, local authorities, armed forces and civil society, who have been actively participating in the reform and development of agriculture to move forward as panned in the action plan.
Finally, on the eve of upcoming Khmer New Year may I wish Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen happiness and prosperity. I wish you all the five gems of Buddhist blessings. May I now declare the closing of the conference!