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Rice fields

The agricultural sector, including rice farming, livestock, forestry, and cultivation of other crops, provides direct employment to more than 75% of Cambodia's labour force. According to the Ministry of Finance, agriculture accounts for 37% of GDP. Excellent rice harvests in 1999 contributed to Cambodia's better than expected economic growth. With its large amount of arable land, ample rainfall, and close proximity to the major ASEAN markets of Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia has strong growth potential in the agriculture sector.
A number of plantation agriculture projects are already underway in the areas of palm oil, cashew, coffee, tea, and vegetable production.

A growth potential sector

The government has taken note of the growth potential of the sector as well as the important role increased agricultural production can play in reducing rural poverty in Cambodia. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (www.maff.gov.kh) has also been designated as one of four priority ministries to receive expanded budgets.

H.E. Chan Sarun

The potential is tremendous. The employment of new technology and the addition of capital will produce rapid growth and significant gains. Government of Cambodia also provides generous incentives for foreign investors in the area of agricultural production to further encourage growth in this sector. As explained the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, H.E. Chan Sarun, the ministry has established four main priorities to develop the sector such as the diversification. He mentioned "We can for instance develop the aquaculture where we have already success or products like tobacco, cashew nuts and coffee destinated to the agro-industrial sector". The second priority is to encourage the investment on the agro-industrial sector, which lies "in the center of our development policy in order to give a way out for production and also create an added value". The introduction of new technologies and know how, with modernisation and mechanisation of the sector will help increase the production and profitability, and therefore increase the investment. As the Minister underlined, "We first of all implemented our tax policy, establishing an exemption for the imports concerning all materials needed by the farmers".

Rice and rubber, the most significant opportunities for growth

Rice production accounts for approximately 15% of GDP, yet yields remain low. Government efforts to increase rice production have been quite successful and led to an increase of 30% over the last five years. With rice-import demand in Asia forecast to grow by as much as 70% over the next thirty years, there is certain to be an export market for rice if Cambodian production increases. In this field we have to underline that the Cambodian rice, even through less competitive than its neighbours such as Vietnam or China, has a higher quality and have always been renowned. Nowadays the tendency is to develop a bio rice of a superior quality. Within this context national companies have taken the opportunity and are selling their production essentially to external markets. An example of it is Angkor Kasekam Roonroeung Co., Ltd. , with Mr. Chieu Hieng as CEO, the company has invested heavily into preliminary studies to find the best ground and into modern equipment to guarantee the best quality for a rice that is being exported to several countries in the world. Bio-products is their motto and the company actually forbids its farmers to use any kind of chemical fertilizers.

Rubber production

Concerning rubber, it is the one of the most significant opportunities for growth in Cambodian agriculture. As for the rice, the average quality of rubber in Cambodia is particularly high despite a lack of certification in the sector that is currently under achievement with collaboration with the Malaysian certification institute. Current levels of production are only a quarter of their volume in the mid-1960s.

rubber tree

The main attraction in the sector and appeal to foreign investors, from the government to develop the sector, is the privatising of public rubber plantations. In words of H.E. Ly Phalla, Director General of the General Directorate of Rubber Plantations: "Our main priority is to create jobs and provide a reliable source of income to the farmers (…) we know that we need foreign investors to develop the industrial exploitation, they have to meet our expectations and we have to fulfil their needs too". In addition, close to 280.000 hectares of land are estimated to be available and readily accessible for rubber production.

Since this is a labor-intensive industry, Cambodia's relatively cheap labour would be an advantage and the plantation directors are eager to receive new partners: "In Cambodia we have about 280.000 Hectars of suitable red land (…) for the rubber plantations, as you can imagine there is plenty of room for new investors (…) and we are actually carrying on a policy of partnership research. We want to develop, during the coming years, processing industries of the rubber in order to be able to export products which have an higher added value." said Mr. Mak Kim Hong, Chairman and Managing Director of the biggest rubber plantation in Cambodia, Chup Rubber Plantation.


The fisheries sub-sector accounts for approximately 5% of Cambodia's GDP relative to livestock and has a potential to increase its contribution to economic growth. The government's goal is to increase production while preserving environmental integrity and maintain per capita consumption. One of the priorities is to increase incomes through greater value added activities, such as commercial shrimp fanning for export.

Total Fisheries Production (Click here)

Since domestic capacity for offshore fishing is currently limited, the government will continue to allow foreign access to Cambodia's fishing grounds. The management of inland fisheries is in fact, dominated by a system of lots or concessions, auctioned out by the government to private business. However, fishing lot boundaries are often not clearly defined or communicated to local communities. In order to protect people's live hood and natural resources, various institutions have been piloting another approach, namely community fisheries. It has helped reduce illegal fishing by up to 60%.


Close to 60% of Cambodia's land area is forested and constitutes a major national asset. Nowadays Cambodia produces honey, wood spirit, resin, rattan, bamboo, cardamom, bark and medicinal plants from its forested lands. Wood is also still the primary source of fuel in Cambodia.

The government is in the process of developing sustainable forestry management plans that will both contribute to Cambodia's economic output and be environmentally sound. To this end, the Royal Government adopted a forestry sector strategy which is based on three pillars: sustainable forest concession management policy, where timber exploitation is strictly controlled according to international forestry standards; a system of protected areas to preserve the country's unique biodiversity and endangered species; and a substantially stronger community forestry development program.

To establish a comprehensive legal framework for forest management, the RGC issued a governmental Decree on Forest Concession Management in February 2000. This decree has also been reinforced with a Forestry Law, drafted with technical assistance from the ADB, and a government Decree on Community Forestry to be submitted to the Council of Ministers in the near future.

Despite the great improvements, there are still factors limiting agricultural production including unclear land ownership, a lack of irrigation infrastructure, inadequate transportation infrastructure. Nevertheless, the country's infrastructure improved gradually in the 1990s, largely due to massive infusions of foreign assistance. Nowadays agricultural products are massively produced in Cambodia and many international companies have taken this opportunity.

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