Excellencies, Representatives of Countries and Development Partners,
Excellencies, Ladies, Gentlemen,
Distinguished National and International Guests
Today, it is my great pleasure to attend the Dissemination Workshop on National Report on the Outcome of the Agriculture Census in Cambodia 2013, which is a historic event in Cambodia and successfully conducted in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Taking this opportunity, I would like to commend National Committee for the Agriculture Census 2013, Technical Committee for the Census of Agriculture, Publicity Committee for the Agriculture Census and Committee for City/Provincial Agriculture Census, coupled with the Ministry of Planning, National Institute of Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries with roughly 4,000 census officials, for their significant contribution to the successful outcome of the census.
In addition, my sincere thanks go to FAO, USAID, AusAid and Sida since such a successful census could not have been achieved without their great supports, specifically the technical assistance and supporting fund. On top of these, I would like to extend thanks to FAO in Asia and the Pacific Region that has helped develop the project for the Agriculture Census 2013. Likewise, FAO in Cambodia in association with the Ministry of Planning are also the important actors in mobilizing resources from various development partners.
Indeed, the Census is a big and an important task for the nation as a whole, especially for the national statistical system. This is because such a census will bring in real agriculture related data as well as information on farms, land plots and all types of crops, and animal, poultry and aquaculture husbandry, and so on. That is why, most countries in the world, particularly ASEAN member states, need to conduct this census. Furthermore, accurate, precise and reliable data of the census will make good agriculture statistics, serving as an important tool for the development of policies to promote agriculture, monitoring and evaluation, in order to accelerate the development of the nation.
Particularly, Cambodia’s objective has always been to encourage the development of agriculture sector at a new level of pace and scope, not only to expand and strengthen economic base but also expedite poverty reduction process and raise the living standard of Cambodian people. This vision has been highlighted in the “Policy on Promotion of Paddy Rice Production and Export of Milled Rice” formulated with the aim of transforming Cambodia into a rice granary and an important global exporter of “Rice – White Gold”. In this regard, we have introduced many measures, such as continuously investing and expanding irrigation system, promoting participation of private sector in investment of rice processing and export, resolving issues of credit shortage for collecting and processing rice, promoting production techniques, improving transportation infrastructure including railroads and ports, electricity, land management and land use. This policy also mentions the national census of agriculture every 10 years, in which its result is utilized for the making of cultivation map for responsible agencies, including the Ministry of Planning (National Institute of Statistics), Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as other relevant ministries. Therefore, in order to speed up the development of agriculture sector, the Census of Agriculture serves as another crucial supporting work, and we have chosen 1st April 2013 as the date for agriculture census.
Today, we have great pride to announce the final result after successfully conducting the Census of Agriculture in the Kingdom of Cambodia regarding the collection of information from core questionnaires from April to June 2013 and the announcement of preliminary result on 20th August 2014, and after a large-scale operation of data collection from supplementary questionnaires used for detailed interview with all families working in agricultural sector with 100,000 questionnaires between 6th and 31st January 2014.
I would also like to clarify that the Agriculture Census 2013 is the first agriculture census in the Kingdom of Cambodia. This census is different from population or economic census because it has both core and supplementary questionnaires and collects information on agricultural activities across Cambodia, which covers the number of families involved in agricultural activities, types of staple crops cultivated by farmers, types of livestock and aquaculture as well as types of economic activities related to other agricultural sub-sectors.
Generally, only agriculture census can provide a good reflection about the detailed situation of agriculture in the country and assist the government in designing clear economic policies and various projects to sustain economic growth and attract foreign investment. Along with this, the census covers a vast scope nationwide, is comprehensive and can give us information on the condition of agriculture at both national and sub-national level as well as various fundamental agriculture indicators. In this connection, we can see that the census can also offer specific agriculture data to serve the government’s decentralization policies and also provide sample choice frameworks as well as basis for regular agriculture survey as described in the Master Plan of Statistics and national strategy for the development of statistics in the future. Moreover, the census can give comparison of indicators, serving as the basis for development in the countries within sub-region, region and the world. Therefore, agriculture census is a necessity of the government for the country’s development in this stage and also receives supports from development partners and investors both domestic and international whose activities are related to agriculture promotion.
Nowadays, we can properly and explicitly review and plan sectoral development policy in each agricultural sector. This outcome is to be acknowledged by the Royal Government. With that, the private sector also gets the benefit from the information of this census. This information would assist investors to invest in agricultural sector in a modern way, serves the demand for the rising populations, foods and nutrition.
In this spirit, in addition to the contributions that we have implementing, I would like to share some of my recommendations for the statistical work in order to strengthen the foundation and broaden the task of this agriculture census as follows:
First: Shall extensively use the data of census of the agriculture that is high quality and reliable in preparing the policy, planning, and other program at national and sub-national level.
[Start of Selected Impromptus]
Success in Rice Production
Please allow me to take this opportune moment to speak a little about our policy to promote export of paddy and milled rice. It also concerns with our statistics. What I wanted to say is that we have put out a policy that consists of two objectives – to increase rice production and to promote rice export. We have opted for export of one million ton of milled rice in 2015. We now can say that the policy has not fully achieved its goals. We have succeeded though in bringing our country from one without or with little surplus of rice to one with about five million tons surplus. We must consider this a great achievement as far as rice production is concerned.
As for the second goal, which is to promote export of rice to one million ton per year, we fail to realize it. According to figure we have compiled here, by late 2015, we have exported about half a million metric tons only. We hit 50% of the goal. What are the problems that hinder us from realizing our goal? There are two factors – subjective and objective ones. Subjectively, as country that used to have not enough and import rice for local consumption, we were not ready for export of rice.
Numerous investors overlooked rapid growth of Cambodian rice production. We do not have export-standard rice mills, warehouses, and especially fund to purchase rice from our rice farmers. This is internally subjective factor, which prevented us from purchasing sufficiently big amount of rice every year. Farmers sold their remaining rice to merchants from neighboring countries leaving us loss of value added from rice brand, broken parts, husks and jobs for our people.
Based upon factual investment that is forthcoming, Cambodia will ascertain new capacity of rice mill, which will ensure a figure of three million tons of milled rice. From next year, we will gradually increase our export of rice. However, we should not forget that though we fail to achieve export figure, we have been able to realize a big success from transforming our country from food shortage to one with little surplus and now to one that is exporting rice, while some rice farms could produce only once and other twice a year. At this rate, our country ensures a surplus of five million tons of paddy rice or about three million tons of milled rice.
As for the second goal of exporting rice, we still have other objective factors to deal with. It is not a matter that Cambodia encountered them alone but regional and the world as well. It is an issue that developing countries are producing same product. In the Mekong sub-region, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos are all producing rice. In our encounter at the ASEAN summit, where Prime Minister of Russia arrived in Cambodia for an official visit even before my arrival, HE Prayut Chan O’cha, Prime Minister of Thailand, said to me that Russia might have come to purchase a big amount of rice from Cambodia. He teased me to let Russia buy some from Thailand. I replied that Cambodia does not have the capacity to supply Russia with rice they need yet.
Sanctioning Russia Is Strangling Oneself, Giving Chance to ASEAN
Naturally, carrying out policy to sanction Russia is causing loss not to Russia but to the punishers. Farmers in Europe who used to sell their produce to Russia faced with market shortage. Russia, being sanctioned there, turned elsewhere and in this case to ASEAN. This is an experience. Those who punish others have become the punishees themselves. Where else could those farmers sell their produce when Russia can no longer buy. Now sanction on Russia has become an opportunity for ASEAN because Russia could not stay idle in area that they are not wanted. I am speaking the truth and for doing so, many do not like me. Russia cannot wait to die and, in this case, the ones who have a bad time are the punishers. They have had to subsidize their farmer’s produce.
Now I am talking about developing countries with similar products. In the course of my negotiation with the Vice President of India, he accepted that these countries compete among themselves. Aside from ACMECS with five country members that produce rice as a big barn in Asia, India has a huge barn of rice for export too. Prime Minister of Thailand said that he still has some 18 million tons of rice while making efforts to sell some six million tons. Rice pledging scheme of previous government causing a big loss for Thailand and they could not keep it for long. The Philippines now sign no more contract with rice producer/seller but calls for bidding for rice exporting between Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. Cambodia never succeeds. Vietnam and Thailand do better. Among developed countries, other products for competition range from smart phones to TV and cars that are produced in America, Europe but also China, Korea, Japan, etc. There have not yet been competition as far as medicines are concerned. The fact that I am talking about this does not mean that I am going to prevent developing countries from exporting their products to Cambodia. They are for our need as well. We cannot ensure trade equilibrium as well. Some countries import so much from other while the size of export is smaller. Some are in reversal trend. It is the normal nature of economy where at a macro level one must guarantee a surplus production for export.
Low Prices of Agricultural Produce
As far as subjective matter is concerned, it requires strengthening capacity of Cambodia own self. I must take this chance to declare that I have heard complain of our farmers. In my Facebook exchanges, I also learnt that there are requests for intervention on rice prices. I am telling you I have heard your call. This is a subjective matter. In 2008, the price of food had gone up and our farmers made the most out of their works. Then, some countries swapped land that used to produce food for human to grow stuff like ethanol for machines. The price of food jumped as high as that of oil. In recent years, the price of oil stayed high while the price of food lowered. Now that oil price lowers, the food price retain more or less, where there could be connection between energy and food security.
So, I must be frank that as far as our ambitious plan on rice production and export of one million metric ton, we have striven to meet the first goal of increasing rice production but we have failed the second goal of exporting one million metric ton of it. However, with what we have in hands, we will pursue on. We must strengthen our capacity and work to cut down production costs of our farmers. The agricultural census could serve as an important part for the preparation of our policy and actions…
[End of Selected Impromptus]
Second: Shall analyze the data of census of the agriculture deliberately with efforts, diligence, and flexibilities in order to ensure that it meets all sorts of needs such as researches and data requirement for national and sub national level. Especially, the Ministry of Planning (Institute of Statistics) and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries shall frequently and regularly continue their cooperation in investigating the small and medium agriculture, identified in the statistical regulation in order to investigate the major agriculture’s indicators that is related to agricultural production’s growth, food security, nutrition, and gender.
[Start of Selected Impromptus]
Growing Crops Resilient to Water Shortage
The fact that we are conducting survey is for preparing cropping plan. I have brought this issue up almost every year and now we have statistics on cropping pattern according to soil condition. We cannot afford to leave them growing crops they used to in area where there are insufficient water. We could orientate them to grow different crops that would give them more profit than rice. The Ministry of Agriculture must make use of the data and statistics for cropping pattern and planning. I remember that our graduates at the Jamka Daung Agricultural University all do thesis in relation to agriculture and cropping patterns. In another instance, we also have to take into account international market factors where price fluctuates – like price of rubber goes down, corn goes up, etc.
[End of Selected Impromptus]
Third: Shall continue to strengthen and apply the mega statistical plan, review the mid-term mega statistical plan and prepare the national strategy of statistical development (2016-2018), by harmonizing it with the United Nations’ Framework of Cooperative Finance (2016-2018) and National Strategic Development Plan (2014-2018) which offer priority to the census of population in 2018, annual economic and social investigation, investigation of labors and investigation that is related to other agricultural sectors.
Fourth: Shall strengthen National Statistics System via the Amendment of Statistical Regulation such as Law on Statistics and Sub-Decree of the preparation and operation of national statistical system, and other related Sub-decrees. At the same time, we shall increase the statistical management as well as strengthening the mechanism of coordination, including the development partners who have participated in financing statistical action.
Fifth: Shall pay attention to the regular training of human resources because statistical work is a complicated job, requiring skill development and practical experience in census, monitoring that is the real practice, especially focusing on the statistics that requires strong building of statistical skills.
Based on these foundations, I strongly believe that Excellencies, ladies, and Gentlemen, Officials of the Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and relevant Ministries-Institutions, Sub-National Authorities will continue to pay greater attention with effectiveness on these tasks to be able to contribute to the development of Cambodia Statistics System on a stronger and wider basis that is favorable to the socio-economic development.
At the end, together with the “Dissemination Workshop on National Report on the Outcome of the Agriculture Census in Cambodia 2013”, I would like to wish Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen the Four Gems of Buddhist blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Healthiness, and Strength.