Excellencies, Excellencies Ambassadors to the Kingdom of Cambodia,
National and International Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, I have a great honor and pleasure to joint you all again, your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the management and civil servants of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), in this very important stock taking agricultural conference.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend appreciation to the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) for organizing this important taking stock conference and setting directions for agricultural, forestry and fishery activities and also would like to express appreciation for the utmost efforts in fulfilling their duties consistent with the Royal Government’s agricultural sector development policies that have attained fruitful results.
Indeed, this conference is a great opportunity for all of us to review and take stock of the results and experiences from the previous year and anticipate the facing challenges for the future development of the agricultural sector. Moreover, at this conference we have adequate opportunity in gathering thoughts and many good experiences to introduce effective program with clear direction in fulfilling its responsibility that has to be achieved in the following year.
At the same time, I have followed the report of His Excellency the Minister of MAFF on the two days conference, clearly indicating the productive results of the conference. In 2004, even we have faced with sever drought compounded with the political stagnation for about one year, but there was no major obstacles in the process of agro-cultivation. The MEFF has made tremendous efforts with the active participation from authorities of all levels, concerned ministries/institutions of the Royal Government, including farmers across the country that have joined together to help the drought victim farmers, this has led to a positive result.
As I have mentioned many times already that Cambodia has no other options but to continue to firmly and strictly implement comprehensive and in-depth reform programs. Reform in each sector is a life-death situation for Cambodia. On the other hand, if we move away from the reform we will definitely lose the opportunity that we are holding in our hand at this moment and will continue to exist in backwardness, conflict and uncertainty.
In this spirit, the agricultural policy of the Royal Government of the Third Legislature of the National Assembly has clearly identified objectives aiming at improving the agricultural productivity and diversification of agricultural sector, transforming it to be one of the champions that can accelerate the economic growth and make significant contribution towards poverty reduction; and to ensure the management and sustainable use of natural resources, in particular in terms of forestry, fishery and rubber. At the same time, the Royal Government has to continue to focus on agro-modernization that require the support for small-scale farmers through the usage of appropriate technology that farmers can control the quality and natural environment conditions.
As we all already know that the cultivation during the rainy and dry seasons in 2004 have faced difficulties and damages as a result of sever drought that has affected the productivity and growth of the agricultural plants, which led to the reduction of yield. However, I have also noticed that areas for cultivation, both in rainy and dry seasons, have markedly expanded from previous years, at this point we have to combine our experiences and lessons learned in order to ensure the sustainability of a high potential agricultural production from cultivation on those land areas. This factor is a point where the government, as well as concerned ministries/institutions, has to focus on issues such as inadequate water sources for cultivation and facing yearly drought which is the major concern of the population and the Royal Government has actively participated to resolve it, but could not ease the general concern of the farmers. In this sense, I have publicly announced that I will create a national movement for the irrigation sectors because I have declared the Royal Government of the Third Legislature of the National Assembly as the “Irrigation Government.” Small irrigation systems that are managed directly by farmers are good opportunity as Cambodia has cultivated land areas of only 4.8 millions hectares that have underground water sources or rivers. However, the development of irrigation system has to be done in conjunction with the service improvement and the activities to support important agricultural irrigation. Regarding to this work if only the Prime Minister announces or appeals, it is not sufficient, we have to start a national movement in order to successfully perform this work and to have a broad participation from relevant ministries/institutions, donor communities, national and international organizations, monks, local authorities, armed forces, generous people within and outside the country to turn into national movement that have joined together to become a one government force.
Indeed, during 2004 – 2005 in agricultural, forestry and fishery activities, the farmers have faced many challenges that are similar to the previous years. Nevertheless, we are able to ensure the balance of food security for the population and have a surplus of 618 thousands tons of paddy rice. At the same time, the case of animal disease in some provinces/cities, especially the bird flue that has not been contained yet. Taking this opportunity let me express my cordial appreciate to the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Health, other relevant ministries/institutions as well as donor communities, national and international organizations that have ownership to manage situation in timely manner.
Moreover, I have observed that activities regarding the development of family rubber plantation are noticeably progressing, particularly the development of family rubber plantation under assistance of AFD that has attained a good result both in terms of quantity and quality. In particular, rubber plantation outside the project has been significantly developed, even though we have faced some challenges such as delay in registration of land titling, credit provision that are not responsive to the farmers need, this case needs to find appropriate resolution in order to ease farmers concern. On the other hand, according to the assessment, the use of rubber in the world will increase by 4.6 % equal to 21.94 millions tons in 2005 and 4.3% equal to 21.84 millions tons in 2006. This factor has made all rubber produced countries, including Cambodia to continue to increase the production capacity of the natural rubber according to the economic policy of each country.
Recently, even though the Royal Government obtains several good achievements in cracking down illegal activities in forestry, fishery and land sector, the Royal Government still faces a lot of critical challenges that require stronger efforts to overcome those.
In reality, illegal activities have not been reduced to the minimum level due to the complexity of the problems involving different groups of people especially powerful and rich people and poor people, who have been used as a front line to clear the forest or to be bought at low price.
Again, I publicly warn your Excellencies, Okhna, ladies and gentlemen who have been implicated in those cases have to immediately hand over the former-forest land back to the Royal Government for reforestation. If you do not do so, you would be severely punished.
The policy agenda of the Royal Government has continued to provide priority to agriculture and for the current mandate, I still consider as priority on the development of borderline and remote areas to prevent migration by setting up and developing several new urban areas equipped with appropriate infrastructure in particular the development of road network along the border in order to improve the living condition and their participation in the economic activities with the aim to narrow the development gap between urban and remote areas. Moreover, I still consider the effective and efficient management of natural resources development by linking the exploitation with conservation of forestry and fishery resources, reforestation, aquaculture, and environmental protection as the most important and valuable for the support of human, animals, trees and bio-diversity that ultimately tackle poverty reduction and strong economic development.
In this context, we should not overlook the importance of developing agricultural communities and small and medium agri-businesses. At the same time, to modify the imposed direction and what we did not well implement in the previous year and in the sense to promote the strengthening of agricultural sector and other development programs to be in a hopeful progress, I would like to take this opportunity, I would like to raise my views and give some recommendations to Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and other relevant institution as follows:
1- According to some observations for the last several years of drought, farmers who have planted short-term rice in major areas always have higher yield and face less insufficiency compared to farmers who have planted long-term rice. Therefore, we have to promote and encourage farmers to cultivate short- and medium-term rices that are indifferent across seasons with the combination of organic fertilizers production system to meet the demand of foreign countries. Moreover, we have to conduct researches and search for other kinds of crops that are resistant to draught to help farmers in the areas frequently hit by draught, to cultivate other crops that have the same or better economic value compared to rice cultivation. In short, we need to search for crops that are suitable to the conditions of the area with concrete measures to reserve the source of water and to clearly allocate the plantation area according to social, economical and environmental efficiency aiming at agricultural diversification and intensitification.
2- To promote the development of agro-industry especially to provide technical support for post-harvest and agro-processing techniques such as drying, stocking, packaging, processing and improving quality of agricultural products for all people in rural areas, craftsmen and agro-processors. In this framework, we have to focus more on expanding technology, agriculture mechanization through training, research, experiments and promotions with the aim towards development of local areas, especially poor farmers.
3- For the development of agricultural community, I would like to ask all relevant institutions such as National Bank of Cambodia and Rural Development Bank to have a coordinated mechanism to help rural credit by providing financial services and loans with low interest rate to finance their investment. This can be implemented based on the interest rate in the same sector in other ASEAN countries within the framework of linking market to the poor, low-income households, and small and medium enterprises aiming at promoting rural economic activities, agriculture development communities and contributing to the enhancement of living standards of people in rural areas.
4- Each year the imports of agricultural equipment have increased especially chemical fertilizers, pesticides and animal feed. However, several negative aspects have yet improved for example the importation without proper licenses, trade marks and instructions etc. Therefore, we need to effectively enforce the laws and to disseminate all regulations with providing extensive services in every way as well as putting pressure to register and to be recognized by authority, especially to strengthen inspection mechanism and practical measures by implementing fines and strictly punishing the offenders.
At this point, I would like to emphasize and ask Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and relevant institutions to take measures against the usage of chemical fertiliser and agro-pesticides that have severely affected to food safety and public health, and we should pay strong attention to the issues. Another priority that we have to address is to determine roles and responsibilities on supervising food safety by Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on agricultural products from on-farm to primary processing.
5- Referring to Prakas No. 03 Bror Kor dated 8th August 2000 on the development of family based rubber plantation and my recommendation, as I remember, on 18th October 2000 at Chamkar Mlou Pagoda, Svay Khleng Commune, Krouch Chmar District, Kampong Cham Province and based on the result and impact of family-based rubber plantation development project supported by French Development Agency (AFD), farmers express their satisfaction on high economic value and less affected by natural disaster for rubber relative to other crops. In this context, MAFF and Director of Rubber Plantation Department have to continue their efforts to promote the development of rubber plantation focusing on: state-owned plantation and private-owned in particularly family based plantation. Under this framework, I would like all relevant institutions such as Ministry of Urban Planning and Construction, Ministry of Economy and Finance and Rural Development Bank work cooperatively to assure the farmers with comfort. I would also like AFD and others donors to extend theirs support in term of grants and credits for the development of family-based rubber plantation to be successful.
At the same time, we have to promote and encourage the investment on processing industry that have latex as their input to produce final products; so that, we will not export the latex and other intermediate products to foreign countries in which we lose value added and domestic employment.
6- In recent years, we have observed a declining fishery output due to changing environment and an increase in demand, which lead to overfishing. Facing with this situation, we have to put our utmost efforts by strengthening the implementation of law, especially to continue cracking down on violation such as using mosquito nets and electric fishing tools. We have to create some conservative areas to increase the natural stock by focusing on providing rights to rural communities; so that farmers will be able to actively participate and be responsible for natural resources by themselves. At the same time, we have to change the farmer’s habit from fishing to aquaculture. In this sense, I want to stress that we cannot only depend on nature, we have promote the development of aquaculture all over the country especially fish farming at family level by doing research on producing every kind of valuable domestic baby fish species and supplying to farmers.
7- For Forestry, I have already mentioned some above, but I would like to point out that H.E. Chan Sarun took a lead in preparing a mission group to crack down on forestry illegal activities on March 8, 2005 and a mixed-operation team has been established and lead by General Chea Sarorn. The team successfully suppressed illegal activities at Aural and Thpong Districts in Kompong Speu and I would like the team to continue its work in the area that is under illegal activities. However, forest clearing for land and land encroachment are the hot issues that require actions to eliminate and reduce at maximum. I would to add some more measures on this:
- The department of urban planning and construction stops issuing relevant ownership document on forest land which is not allowed in Law on Forestry.
- Local authority and relevant institution have to work together to enforce order no. 01 bor bor dated 6th June 2004 to combat against illegal forest clearing and forest land encroachment.
- The powerful and rich people have to voluntary hand the forest land back to the government as a role model for other people in the same way that our campaign to collect car tax, otherwise you will face legal enforcement according to law.
- In case, the misconduct is discovered without cooperative and the case is reported. The reporters of the secret deal will be provided with incentive and kept confidential while the mis-conductor will be sacked and send to the court.
- Every ministry, institutions and authority at all levels must actively promote reforestation on the unfertile land and any land, which can be planted trees to contribute the rehabilitation and development of our economy.
Indeed, the points that I have mentioned above are just some important points for the base in development of agriculture sector with sustainability. On the other hand, the participation by the people is one important factor in development of agriculture sector because this sector is linked to the benefits to support the their living standard, which is in need all kinds of support, technical, spiritual, and financial intervention to mobilize them to actively support the development of agriculture sector to be prosperous in the future.
I strongly believe that goals and duties that have been issued by this conference for the year 2005-2006 will be successfully achieved by joint efforts from the management and all levels of officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries with close cooperation from related ministries and institutions of the government, local authorities, arm forces, and civil society that have actively participated in every reform and agriculture development to achieve plan and actions as planned and expect that these related institutions will adopt the above recommendations to be implemented with success and transparency.
On behalf of the Royal Government and myself, I would like to take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to all donor communities, that have supported the agriculture, forestry and fishery towards proud development. I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to all international partners to continue support to reduce poverty, which is the constant worry of farmers, who have totally depended on agricultural sector.
Once again, I would like to admire and highly appreciate for the past achievement that the management and all levels of officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, especially the active participation to make the government’s policy program to have success and to turn into reality. Finally, on the occasion of coming Khmer New Year, I would like to wish you all with five blessing of Buddhist gems. Thank you for your attention and I declare the closing of the conference of “Taking Stock of 2004-2005 Performance and Setting Directions for 2005-2006”.