Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear all Participants!
Today, I am pleased to attend the “Closing of 2011 – 2011 Stocktaking and 2011 – 2012 Direction Setting Conference of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries”, which is critically important for Cambodia’s socio-economic health. First, I would like to highly value all the relevant and responsible authorities in Phnom Penh capital that worked hard, both physically and mentally, to provide security protection for the society as well as for the ASEAN state/government heads; I also would like to praise the public in Phnom Penh capital for their involvement in maintaining security, social conduct, and public order while we hosted the 20th ASEAN Summit on April 3-4 2012. The Summit was a great success and brought great reputation to the entire Cambodia.
Truly, through this conference, we get many new opportunities to gather experiences and best practices and jointly identify new measures to continue preparing plans and implementing strategies that are consistent with agriculture development targets and to promote further participation from concerned ministries-institutions, development partners and agencies, private sector and communities to ensure work efficiency, competitive advantage and the development of agriculture sector so that new socio-economic achievements will be realized.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to highly value the management and all levels of civil servants of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for fulfilling their work with great sense of responsibility and realizing numerous achievements in 2011. In parallel, I would like to express my appreciation to and praise relevant ministries-institutions that worked hard on implementing decisions as well as the recommendations that I have laid down to be used as a compass for the development of agriculture sector. In general, all these achievements cannot be decoupled from the concerted effort in addressing challenges that result in such prideful achievement in spite of last year’s natural disasters caused by severe flooding and other challenges; the agriculture sector has been steadily and continuously promoted and given attention to. In this sense, I firmly hope that you will devote all your mental and physical strength to carry on your job to attain new achievements in upcoming years.
We all know that prices of goods, in particular oil price, have continued upward trend since 2011 due to the global high demand and the situation in the Middle East and the fast changing prices of a number of goods. Along with this, the demand for agricultural products in Asia has increased rapidly, causing increases in the prices of food. The changed situation of geo-economy both in the region and the world could lead to an increase in demand of agricultural products. This is a catalyst for agriculture sector development in Cambodia.
In general, Cambodia has been well aware of this opportunity; and we have increased our effort to ensure good progress of the national agriculture that has contributed to the recovery of Cambodia’s economy from global financial crisis with strong growth rebound, thus the Royal Government has given high priority to the development of the economy with the implementation of policy on promoting paddy rice production and milled rice exports.
In fact, Cambodia’s economic growth in 2011 was 7% while the inflation was contained at 5.5%. Looking ahead, Cambodia will need to continue to diversify its economic structure with stronger focus on Asia’s markets. Giving attention to these factors and the basis of the past implementations will further improve the agriculture sector in 2012 and in the long run.
Based on the speech delivered by H.E Chan Sarun, paddy production field in 2011 reached almost 2.96 million hectares with cultivatable areas of about 2.76 million hectares and annual average yield for both dry and rainy seasons of 3.17 tons per hectare, compared to 2.97 tons per hectare last year. In terms of production, we achieved 8.77 million tons of paddy rice that can be translated into a surplus of 2.78 million tons of milled rice, equivalent to 4.34 million tons of paddy rice, which is a great achievement for Cambodia. Total yields increased around 6.42% in 2011, compared to 2010 due to rehabilitation of planting areas from the damage caused by severe flooding in the rainy season in 2011 as well as the development of irrigation systems, more especially, due to agricultural research and extension services and farmers’ ownership in managing their cultivated lands, learning new techniques and utilizing high-yield seeds.
This brilliant result is beyond my expectation because rainy season’s rice fields affected by flood were more than 270 thousand hectares, compared to that of 400 thousand hectares in dry season. Overall, we are now able to conclude that rice yields gradually and proudly increase from year to year. Rice sector remains a major production underpin rural livelihoods and exports for growth. At the same time, I also take note that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has also promoted all fronts of agricultural production, in particular strategic agriculture sub-sector, such as rubber production, agro-industries crops, livestock, and aqua-agriculture to secure not only food security, but also surplus for exports.
Indeed, the Royal Government has always considered the agriculture sector as a priority sector under all circumstances and a critically important work since its scope perfectly complements equitable distribution of growth, productivity enhancement, employment creation, maximization of the potential of natural resources and betterment of living standards of Cambodian majorities. In this spirit, we must make further effort to restore and expand physical infrastructure, build institutional capacity and human resources, promote private sector participation in agriculture, enabling us to effectively and timely respond to the real need of agriculture development in Cambodia to become one of the largest milled rice export countries in the world and transform rice fields into all-season green fields.
In this context, I am pridefully optimistic that agricultural productivity enhancement and agricultural diversification remain key priorities both in current situation and in the future. Based on this view and the objective of contributing to what we have already implemented in response to my previous recommendations and in order to promote agriculture sector contribution to growth, I would like to take this opportunity to provide more recommendations as follows:
First, we must promote agricultural growth rate at between 3% and 4% per annum by continuing to enhance agricultural productivity, diversify and commercialize agriculture sector, promote export of agricultural products, and strengthen and expand physical infrastructure used for research experiment, especially the production of high yield seeds, agriculture extension services and exhibition of farming technique nationwide. In addition, we should continue educating farmers to switch from traditional farming to new farming techniques that enable them to save time, save cost and increase crop yields to respond to market demand and to improve their standard of living.
Second, the first agriculture census will provide basis for the effective and accurate formulation of agricultural policies and national agricultural development plan. Therefore, the Ministry of Planning and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, in collaboration with Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) must carry out the agriculture census in 2013.
Third, we should examine the possibility of establishing a national institute of rural and agricultural economics, enabling us to conduct scientific research on relationship between the agricultural development, economy and rural development to ensure consistency of policy and institutional linkage.
Fourth, we must review obligations of the Kingdom of Cambodia under the framework of regional integration and ASEAN Connectivity by 2015 that relate to “food, agriculture and forestry”. Among those, we must examine the need of amendment to relevant laws and regulations and prepare technical standard of agriculture production to ensure harmonization with ASEAN standard for competitiveness of agro-business and investment in agriculture sector.
Fifth, ASEAN countries have mad concerted efforts to narrow development gap among state members to realize the establishment of ASEAN community by 2015. In this spirit, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has to pay high attention to three main issues: (1) build up conceptually knowledgeable capacity in economics and regulation formulation on agricultural community; (2) ensure highly effective and sustainable use of agricultural resource; (3) ensure quality, safety and high standard of agriculture products to be competitive in international market for export
Sixth, on November 23, 2011, as my initiative, I recommend the formulation of the policy on promoting the production and export of rubber within the next few years, after rice export policy. Through this, we must pay attention to a number of factor, (1) we must ensure the quality of cultivation and variety, since inferior variety return low yield and result in the loss of revenues. For instance, GT1 rubber variety, which is the current traditional variety return roughly 1,000 kg of latex per hectare, compared to its rating of 1,600 kg per hectare. This is significant as we lose 200,000 tons of latex on 400,000 hectare of rubber plantation. If the dried rubber price is USD 3,000 per ton, we stand to lose USD 600 million per annum starting from 2020. (2) We must continue to promote smallholding rubber plantation. (3) We must continue to promote the development of rubber plantation on economic land concessions. (4) We must make further effort in upgrading the value chain, ranging from quality improvement, processing and packaging to rubber trade according to the international standard.
Seventh, We must continue to instruct the animal health and production entity to lay down new technical measures, by focusing on raising of livestock, feeding improvement, varieties, breeding and reinforcing legal measures related to animal health and production to increase livestock productivity, prevent the outbreak of animal infectious diseases, and protect public health, especially tighten control of the illegal import of livestock and animal products from foreign countries. Moreover, we must push for better management and the establishment of slaughtering houses across the country to ensure all slaughters take place in slaughtering houses and the inspection is conducted according to appropriate techniques to ensure hygiene, quality and safety for consumers. Moreover, we must also make effort to construct more biogas digesters for farmers in remote rural areas to reduce the use firewood and coal, facilitate housewives and children daily tasks, and increase the use of biogas digester’s residue as a substitute to chemical fertilizer.
Eighth, following the reform of the fisheries sector which involve the total elimination of fishing lots, the word “fishing lot owners” no longer exist and this is a milestone reform in the sector. Therefore, we must clearly demarcate the conservation zones and fishing zones by cooperating with concerned ministries-institutions and sub-national authorities and managing the fisheries conservation zones effectively. Along with this, we must push for the development of all kinds of aquaculture. Among those, we need to promote the establishment of offspring production stations to supply domestic demand, the establishment of community ponds in all communes and organize the ceremonies of releasing offspring into natural waters to attract public contribution to sustainable conservation of fisheries. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, sub-national authorities and concerned competent agencies must work together to ensure high implementation effectiveness of the measures related to fisheries reform, including the strengthening of cracking down on fisheries violation especially on the destruction of offspring and spawning fishes, preventing use of illegal fishing tools, fishing during ban season, using pond or canal for off-fishing objectives, filling those pond/canal for other business that destroy fishery production, timely cracking down on illegal destruction of flooded forest in restricted areas such Tamban 3 surrounding Tonle Sap area and mangrove. And we must have strategy to block illegal claiming flooded forest and mangrove. We must most strictly continue preventing provision land for development that affects flooded forest, mangrove, coral and sea weeds, which are vital shelter for national fishery, particularly areas surrounding Tonle Sap and costal regions.
Ninth, I have mentioned a lot about conservation, development and crack down on forestry crime. Today, I command forestry administration to seize illegally deforested land with objective to restore and redevelop national forestry. Another important point is that local authorities, all kinds of armed forces, court and relevant agencies must cooperate with forestry administration to continue fight against forestry crime all over the country in effective and constant manner. In parallel, all local authorities must lead prevention, eradication, deforestation, firing, clearing, and fencing for owning and dwelling of migrants within permanent forest reserve. To continue promoting and accelerating demarcation of permanent forest reserve, to build technical and research capacity related to forestry and animal, and to identify area for permanent forest reserve for research through seeking financial resource form development partners in sense to ensure safety of sustainable forestry management and local community development as well as to make contribution to global climate change, and continue effectively implementing carbon credit scheme in Cambodia.
In this spirit, the government strongly believe that Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, officials of all levels of Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, of relevant institutions, local authorities will to continue fulfilling duties with great attention and vigour, and new achievements to be made will definitely make important contribution to development and prosperity on broader foundation that is effective and favorable for sustainable national socio-economic development.
Once again, I would like to appeal to all relevant ministries-agencies, sub-national administrations, armed forces, national and international development partners and agencies, private sector and communities to participate in any forms to help farmers and to develop agriculture sector gradually and fast.
Taking this occasion, regarding conference on agriculture, I would like to support conference for farmer nation-wide with objective to reveal creative ownership by to adapt knowledge to advance in technology by reshaping vision to be competitive in both quality and quantity towards agro-business. Along with this, I would like to thank Korean Project of International Agriculture (KOPIA) in Cambodia who provides prizes to 7 star farmers to undergo 10-day study tour in Korea at the end of April. These activities had clearly illustrate competition among farmer nation-wide and narrowing gap between technicians and farmers who are ones to practically implement those technologies in order to increase potential of production and improve livelihood.
At the end, together with the “Closing of the 2011-2012 Stocktaking and 2013 Direction Setting Conference of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery”, in addition to celebration of the upcoming Khmer New Year, I would like to wish Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, professors, students, the whole conference four gems of Buddhist blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.