– Your Venerable Monks,
– Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
– Beloved Compatriots, Employees, Teachers and Students!
Today, I am extremely pleased to be here once again to visit all of you at the Inauguration Ceremony of the Dharma School of Kirivanaram Pagoda, so-called Phnom-Chan Pagoda and Latex Harvesting at the Chub Rubber Plantation. I would like to recall that I have participated nine times at the Chub Rubber Plantation in both mundane and religious activities such as visiting employees and employers, infrastructure inaugurations, groundbreaking ceremonies, planting rubber trees, latex harvesting, celebrating ISO certificate award and etc. The Inauguration of the Dharma School, it is my second visit to theKirivanaram Pagoda, so-called Phnom-Chan Pagoda. Eleven years ago, on 26th of May, 1997; I came here to plant rubber tree at the lot No. 97A in Chrab and participated in the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the construction of the Kirivanaram Pagoda.
Since that time, everything has undergone tremendous changes both in mundane and religious world, especially the reform adopted on 15th of March, 1999 to transform all rubber plantations into economic organizations. In response, the Board of Directors of Chub Rubber Plantation formulated a Strategic Master Plan 1999 – 2017 to set key priority actions in order to develop the rubber sector in Cambodia that has entailed a notable result. Two weeks ago, on 7th of May, 2008; I participated the Opening Ceremony of Latex Harvesting and Inauguration of the Latex Processing Plant at Tum Ring Rubber Plantation Sandan District, Kampong Thom province, which is a branch of Chub Rubber Plantation. There has been an utmost effort to transform this location into a remarkable development area consistent with the Royal Government’s strategy, in particular in reducing poverty of local people.
Indeed, rubber plantation is essential for the national economy in a way of employing a large number of workers, protecting the environment and raising farmers’ income. Presently, we see a good progress in the development of rubber sector for all state-owned, private and smallholding rubber plantation. Family-based Rubber Development Project was initiated in 1999 following the policy of the Royal Government with support from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) has spread across the five areas of Kampong Cham which are at Chamka Leu, Steung Trong, Tboung Khmum, Dambe and Memot and currently it has gained good experiences for the development of smallholder rubber plantation. Apart from this, many farmers and private companies have vigorously planted rubber trees in many potential areas/provinces by using their own capital and labor.
In general, we see that the growing trend of rubber development in the country is not strong. There are many factors occurring both negative and positive that are indispensable and dispensable. These factors include psychology, market demand, stocking, quality of processing, lack of capital, cultivating and management technique, land titles, protected forest land, demarcation of forest and cultivating land, shortage in physical infrastructure and so on. The above factors cause reluctance among farmers and private companies. It should be noted that Cambodia still has potential areas of red soil, which have not planted rubber trees or other diversified crops. Moreover, due to the rise in number of population, a large proportion of red soil has been transformed to residential villages or cultivation of inappropriate crops that might damage the soil. In this regard, it shows that rubber sector has not been received full attention. If we compare the size of rubber plantation and the quantity of rubber product with the other regional countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, we can see that Cambodia’s proportion is very small. We contribute about 0.65% to the world rubber plantation of around 8 million hectares, and our export is only 0.56% of the world’s total export of 8 million metric tons.
In the main time, since the world technology and science have continuously progressed, the raw materials have also in a high demand. The 2005 data from the International Rubber Research and Development Boards (IRRDB) in the “Enhancing Incomes of Smallholders” study estimated that the quantity of the natural rubber product in the world will be more than 3 millions tons short starting from 2010. In this sense, the natural rubber is still playing significant role in the world market and the rubber price will keeping increasing. Therefore, the Royal Government has continuously set the policies, recommendations and practical suggestions to all related institutions to focus more attention to promote further development of three kinds rubber plantation.
During the stock-taking conference in 2004-2005 and Setting Direction for 2005-2006 of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery on 9th of April 2005; I recommended the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery and the General Directorate of the Rubber Plantation continue to promote the development of rubber plantation of three types that are state-owned, private and smallholder in particular. In this framework, I would like other relevant Ministries and Institutions, namely the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, the Ministry of Economy and Finance as well as the Rural Development Bank, to extend their cooperation in order to ensure that the farmers are confidence. Particularly, I would like the AFD and other development partners to look at possibilities to continue to support by providing financing in term of grants and credits to successfully develop the family-based rubber plantation. Along with that, we have to encourage the investment towards handicrafts and manufacturing that use rubber as an input avoiding the export of rubber latex, coagulated latex and rubber wood that cause losses both in terms of value added and domestic labor.
In addition to the recommendations recently made at Tum Ring, I would like to add some more following suggestions for implementation and consideration aiming at promoting the development of rubber sector in Cambodia to its potentials:
First, in the future the rubber plantation development should mainly focus on four components, which are rubber latex (cream, block and sheet), rubber wood, latex-made products and rubber-wood furniture. In short, Cambodia able to produce only the rubber latex and rubber tree for export. We have yet to consider on widely encouraging and promoting manufactures or industries that produce intermediate and final products from rubber latex and rubber wood. It, of course, requires more intensive investment.
Second, the rubber industry in Cambodia has not yet been improved and strengthened to its potential. The weaknesses are related to the yield, quality, technology, research and development, training and management and the access to the export market; all these have distanced the Cambodia rubber industry away from other world rubber producing countries, including those major rubber producing countries bordering Cambodia. Presently, besides coagulating the rubber, we have yet to focus our attention and expand rubber processing potential to its maximum. For future development of the industry, a Strategic Policy for Rubber Sector is urgently needed in order to set a clear vision, strategic rationalization and prioritized action plan. Moreover, studies are needed to determine suitable and potential area for rubber and for diversification to other crops.
Third, along with the noticeable development, cooperation with the rubber producing countries, International Rubber Research and Development Board and international rubber associations in technical training, researches and experiences exchange are key priority to focus on. The cooperation with bilateral or multi-lateral development partners should be strengthened in order to mobilize financial supports to develop rubber sector in Cambodia.
Fourth, I would like to highlight the importance of the family-based rubber plantation. In the neighboring rubber-producing countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, the smallholder rubber farmers are one of the big contributors to the national products. In Cambodia, farm-based began to develop with the support from AFD and reached 3800 hectares located in Kampong Cham around the state-owned large rubber plantations. This success provides an encouragement for the development of the rubber plantation in other areas. Therefore, I believe that it is necessary for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, the General Directorate of the Rubber Plantation to continue putting more efforts in implementing this successful project and drawing from experiences to extend an appropriate technology to other provinces of Cambodia.
Fifth, the above mentioned issues are not adequate in order to have a rubber sector with a notable record and high productive contribution to the national economy. It is necessary to have high standard factories and technological rubber plantations, which can be used as a hub to support the development of our farmers. Along with this, I would like to firmly recommend the related institutions to jointly promote the establishment of new rubber plantation companies aiming at creating a Center for Rubber Development and the Tum Ring Rubber Plantation could be set as an example. Those big companies will, of course, provide technological support to the smallholder so that our natural potentials could be exploited in a right way as well as bringing more future benefit to the national economy from the additional 250,000 to 300,000 hectares of rubber plantations.
As mentioned above, the General Directorate of Rubber Plantation will have to strengthen and improve its managerial measures in order to develop various rubber sectors and move it at the same pace, especially concerning the six recommendations I recently raised at the Tum Ring.
As mentioned above, I am fully convinced that the smallholder rubber plantation will become the dynamic force for rural development and be an important opportunity to effectively combat the rural poverty and maintaining the environmental sustainability. In this spirit, broadening the activities in all areas either in state-owned, private and smallholder plantations or plantations within the economic concession zone are the subject that all concerned stakeholders have to participate to appropriately coordinated while complying with the regulation and also in order to speed up the development process.
Taking this opportunity, I would like, once again, to express appreciation and to highly evaluate the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, General Directorate of Rubber Plantation, Board of Directors of the Chub Rubber Plantation, as well as various related organizations, AFD and all levels of competent authorities and armed forces, for their good cooperation; actively contributing with the Royal Government to successfully develop the rubber plantation in Cambodia in order to rapidly reduce poverty of our people.
In conclusion, with the inauguration of the Dharma School of Kirivanaram Pagoda, so-called Phnom-Chan pagoda, and theopening ceremony of latex harvesting in the Chub Rubber Plantation, I would like to wish Your Venerable Monks, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Countrymen, Workers, Teachers and Students with the five gems of Buddhist blessing: longevity, nobility, health, strength and wisdom.