Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, National and International Guests,
Participants of the Conference,
Today, I have honor and great pleasure to participate again with Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Representatives of line Ministries, local authorities, National and International Guests, National and International Communities, Development Partners and Civil Servants who present in the Stock-Taking Conference on Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery 2006-2007 and Setting Direction for 2007-2008.
Indeed, this conference is the most importance in taking stock of achievements realized in the past in order to draw good lessons, as well as, to collect valuable suggestions and opinions as a roadmap for stimulating agricultural development aiming at improving living standard of our people.
The 2007 is the ninth year that our country benefited from the Royal Government’s “Win-Win” policy, which has brought full peace, political stability and social security that are the key factors providing favorable opportunities for national development in all spheres. In this context, the Royal Government of Cambodia remains consider “Agriculture as a priority sector for the Royal government”.
Certainly, the Royal Government of Cambodia has committed to implement all fundamental principles to advance our country, especially to reform all sectors and all level which has been actually implementing in order to assure the immediate response to the needs of our people. In general, the performance of economic and public finance policies of the Royal Government from 2004 to 2006 realized annual economic growth rate on average at 8.3 %. From 1999, after the country has regained full peace, the average economic growth was 9.5% and inflation rate were kept low at the rate of 5% per annum. Income per capita went up 6% on average from $247 in 1994 to $500 in 2006. International reserve increased by 11 folds from $100 million in 1994 to $1,097 million in 2006. The total export increased by 8 folds from $463 million in 1994 to $3,556 million in 2006.
In Agriculture sector, though we were hit by many natural disasters, the progresses in irrigation system and human capacities including farmers made the sector contributed 30% of GDP and actively contributed to reducing poverty of our people.
Even though, the growth was high and volume of export exceeded the past decade, agricultural export face challenges and requires more effort to overcome for advancing the development and export the agricultural produces to the maximum in international market and integrating trade regime into the world economy.
This year, which is more than last year, we produced rice 6.4 million tons for both dry and wet season (average yield is 2.4 tons per hectare). The yield was considered as a historical yield record for the last decade. This high yield is a big success comparing to 1950s and 1960s when the rice yields were only from 0.6-1.6 tons per hectare. In generally, the good progress of cultivation relied on favorable weather condition, no serious natural disasters, and the efforts to restore and rebuild irrigation system.
For negative aspects, we observed natural resources encroachment especially land, conversion of forest to private land, illegal fishing and inundated forest clearing, etc. Those started by a small group of opportunists with support from some of our officials who abused their role and responsibilities for self interests.
In general, fighting against bird flu and other communicative diseases and cattle trafficking are in control. Another issue that needs our attention is the management of agricultural materials and equipments. The trading and utilizing of agricultural fertilizers and pesticides did not follow the technical procedures and threatened health of people and affected the implementation of international trade regime.
It is indeed that agriculture sector has big coverage; however, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and myself, I am appreciated and would like to compliment the outcomes attained by the management and all-hierarchical civil servants of Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery with close cooperation with relevant institutions, development partners, local authorities, especially the participation and well-adaptation of farmers on science by interconnecting technical and practical aspects in order to improve productivity and quality of the produces.
In the above mentioned spirit, I would like to take this opportunity to share my thoughts and comment the discussion points to the conference for consideration as follow:
First: Agriculture Production
This work must focus on utilizing new, high-quality and appropriate amount of seed subjects to weather condition, for example switching from late-maturity to early-maturity rice to accommodate wet season rain that is determined factor. Moreover, the awareness of negative impacts of chemical substance utilized in agricultural production and recognition of benefit of organic production, organic produces are becoming popular and have high potential in the market. Therefore, we should grasp opportunity to increase organic production and pay more attention on organic pesticide as well as deeply though on agriculture produces recognition through Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), especially we should develop incentive to research and develop new seed with high yield and having market demand.
Animal production and husbandry should be profoundly studied in connection to the practical status on the adjusting habit of pig farming to bio-safety guideline. Local authority must cooperate well with expertise authorities to control the trafficking of cattle and products made from cattle and take measures again the offenders. Watching and preventing scarlet fever and bird flu need to take further attention.
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery must continue to cooperation with stakeholder institutions to address the land conflicts between private agriculture investment project and people on the concessional land that officially awarded and signed contract by the ministry.
Cambodia rubber is competing with natural rubber producers in the Asia. Therefore, to strengthen potential of rubber field in Cambodia, I would like to highlight three main points:
1. Pay attention on managing State-owned rubber plantation by taping, harvesting and processing at international standard to increase value-added and sell the rubber to the direct users. Each rubber plantation must strengthen its capacity to be a real market agent to compete with international companies and should cooperate well with neighboring countries in the region.
2. Research and develop high quality variety that provide high yield, big tree and reduce no-harvest duration to 6 or 5 and half years under the advance technology. Monitor and extend comprehensive technical knowledge in grafting budwood, plot monitoring and cultivating for the high quality and harvest polybag plant.
3. The main objective is to help farmers gain benefit from rubber to improve their livelihood and reduce poverty, create job and participate in reforestation and protect the environment. In this regards, I would like Ministry of Land, Urban Planning and Construction and provincial authorities cooperate with Forestry Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery to investigate the rubber plantation planted by our people and determine the favorable land for planting rubber and other industrial crop, particularly the land seized from the illegal land encroachment.
Second: Natural Resources Management
Our critical topic in forestry is to craft this sector to be a better mean to reduce rural poverty, that locates within or adjacent to the forest at the same time of preserving forest sustainability and natural environment. I would like the conference to pay attention and deeply and thoroughly discuss this issue. Besides, illegal forest land encroachment from the opportunists who supported by their power and money remain the highly concerned of the Royal Government. I would like to lastly remind what I already mentioned that we are able to fight the Khmer Rouge to ground, why we cannot abolish forest land encroachment? I would like to announce the effective of all orders and recommendations for strictly enforcement and without exception. At the same time, the forest demarcation is a priority and immediate task for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to hastily and effectively implement in order to prevent and reduce the encroachment of state-own forest land.
As far as fishery is concerned, we must review the sub-decree that transfer the fishing lots to the people living in every province and city and find the solution to manage land expansion and clearly demarcate the flooded forest. The local authority must actively prevent the flooded forest from being cleared; especially stop issuing ownership title on the flooded forest without the study of the Fishery Administration. Meanwhile, we must promote aqua-culture as a national movement for raising fish to ensure the food security through preparing a specific plan and encourage the development of natural fish sanctuary in every province and city through the establishment one community fish sanctuary for one district or one community for one commune; this will lead our country to the state of “having water, having fish” again. Accordingly, we must strengthen the established communities to be at high standard rather than to increase the quantity and continue to protect the conservation area and to constantly prevent illegal fishing by cooperating with relevant stakeholder country wide, especially to eliminate the illegal fishing equipments with strict and unforgivingness.
Third: Agricultural Materials and Equipments Management
For this issue, the customs and excise department and related ministries and institutions need to continue to control the risk of imported and exported goods, particularly agricultural materials that are risky. In this sense, customs and excises officers, Camcontrol officers and relevant competent authorities have to strengthen checking procedure of illegal imported agricultural materials and to take measures against the inflow of illegal imported agricultural materials through illegal border check points. At the same time, the local authorities at all levels and relevant authorities must cooperate well with the authorities of agriculture, forestry and fisheries to enforce the law and crack down agricultural materials trading.
The Ministry of Information must assist to monitor and control local media on the advertisement the agricultural materials such as chemical fertilizers, pesticide and animal feed and medicine that imported illegally into Cambodia without examination and license from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Fourth: Legal Framework and Cooperation
In this case, we must increase law making and improve legal framework that contains loophole and punish law breakers. Everything must be under the law. Thus, all competent institutions and the authorities at all levels must support this. Moreover, each ministry and institution must carry out its duties based on national and people’s interests with spirit of scarification and non-dispute over the duties.
Fifth: Policy preparation and Sectoral strategy
Regarding to this work, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has prepared many key strategies such as «Agricultural Development Strategic Plan», «National Agricultural Research Master Plan», «The Improvement of the Market Information Services Strategy», «Agriculture and Water Strategic Plan», «Gender streamlining in Agriculture Strategy» etc. The ministry has used its full capacity to implement these strategies with high responsibility and I would like to appeal all development partners for the support to successfully implement these strategies. In Cambodia, we have abundant and potential of water resource, land and other natural resources, but we have not utilized them at its potent for agriculture and other sectors. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology have prepared the «Agriculture and Water Strategy» and I hope that this strategy will be implemented shortly. At the meantime, another point that we cannot neglect is the preparation a serious mechanism for monitoring and evaluation the implementation of those strategies including mainstreaming gender in the agriculture sector.
In fact, the progress of agriculture sector, though it has big coverage and cannot stand on its own feet, the sector has a great impact on the socio-economic status of poor in Cambodia. In other hand, since the agriculture remains a key sector contributed to national economy development that is the primary source of employment for Cambodian people, the Royal Government has put utmost effort to reform notably in the forestry and fishery by transfer rights and powers to the rural communities for them to actively partake in making plans and programs and to be responsible for natural resources management by themselves.
All the aforementioned pointed require discussion, consultation and participation in the spirit of understanding, tolerance, and construction from all partners. Therefore, I expect that all discussions will be made in positive construction and mutual understanding. Once again, I would like to express my sincere thank to all the development partners who actively participate in renovation and development of agriculture sector by making progresses and changing to prideful face.
In conclusion, during the forthcoming traditional New Year, the year of pig, Buddhist year 2551, I pleasantly wish Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen and the participants with the five gems of Buddha blessing. In this auspicious occasion, I am please to open the conference on taking stocks of agriculture, forestry and fishery in 2006-2007 and setting direction for year 2007-2008 for now.