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Agriculture and fishing

Agricultural policy and administration

Agriculture in Cambodia accounts for approximately 56% of the labour force. The size of the sector means that policies developed here have a significant impact on the whole country. Agricultural policy and administration is managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). There is close liaison with other ministries and national bodies where agriculture intersects with sectors such as industry, transport and trade. Policy is focused on increasing skills and knowledge, productivity, diversification, processing capacity, storage, distribution and marketing. ...

Agricultural production

Agricultural production accounts for 35 percent of Cambodia’s GDP, but employs 56 percent of the labor force.Main products from the sector are rice, rubber, corn, vegetables, cashews and cassava. Unprocessed agricultural exports were projected to be more than 90 percent of total agricultural exports in 2015.

Agricultural gross production grew by 8.7 percent between 2004 and 2012, driven by crop production, mainly of paddy rice (annual growth of 9 percent), maize (20 percent), cassava (51 percent), sugarcane (22 percent), and vegetables (10 percent). The growth has been slowed remarkably since then.

The average growth of yields across crops between 2004–2012 was estimated at 4 percent, as a result of adoption of improved technologies, more irrigation system and better access to mechanized services.  It has a long way to go, however. The Asian Development Bank study Improving Rice Production and Commercialization in Cambodia found that Cambodia’s average rice yield is low compared to its neighbors—little more than half the yield that Vietnam achieves, for example. 

Source: Improving rice production and commercialization in Cambodia, Asian Development Bank, 2014


There are very different sizes of enterprise, from industrial down to smallholdings. In the last decade, larger farms (more than 3 ha) have tended to become larger and small farms (less than 1 ha) to become smaller.


The economic land concessions (ELC) programme that began in the 1990s gave long-term leases to companies to clear land for industrial agriculture: large-scale plantations and factories to process agricultural products. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries website states that between 1996 and June 2012, the Ministry signed ELC contracts covering 1,204,750 hectares. However, data from NGO Licadho (which excludes land allocated for mining exploration) suggests that 2.14 million hectares have been leased.

Much of the increased production of products such as rubber and cassava is the result of industrial agriculture, which has been a key focus of the government’s agricultural development strategy.

But the massive ELC program has not added significant value. As a 2015 World Bank report found, “Except for rice, the agroprocessing industry has played a limited role in agricultural growth. Almost all crops were exported to neighboring countries unprocessed.”

Small and medium

The first-ever agricultural census in 2013 found that 1.9 million households had agricultural holdings,  meaning they have at least two large livestock or three small livestock or 25 poultry or land equal to 300 square meters. The total land areas of agricultural holdings was 3.1 million hectares, in 3.7 million parcels.

While some small farms have seen productivity improvements in past years, the productivity of most smallholdings has remained low, as agricultural extension and other services have often not reached them. An Asian Development Bank study on rice production found that the size of the area cultivated by farm was the most important determinant of improved production and commercialization, noting that increasing the area of cultivated land can be achieved through either land acquisition, or increasing the number of annual harvests.

Livestock farming

According to the 2013 agricultural census, the households with agricultural holdings housed 28 million chickens, 5 million ducks, 2.7 million cattle, 1.4 million pigs, 472,000 buffalo and a few thousand goats. Livestock holdings are typically very small, between 10 and 100 pigs, for example.

It is an area of farming with some significant constraints—e.g. small average stock holdings, regulatory gaps, disease—and the growth in livestock has been modest. In fact, the importance of livestock production in agricultural value added (the value of gross production less the value of intermediate farm inputs) declined from 17 percent in 2002 to 14 percent in 2012. 

Higher production performance and quality standards usually come from higher stock numbers, so the small holdings and land size of most households constrains growth in the sector. Standards are impacted by regulatory gaps around livestock production, including animal raising, live animal traders, slaughterhouses, meat dealers and market sellers.

Disease is a constraint to cattle production. There have been a number of large outbreaks of bovine foot and mouth disease in Cambodia since 2000, including 2005 and 2013.

Organic farming

The Cambodian Organic Agricultural Association represents and supports organic farmers in Cambodia. Together with the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), they certify products as organic or chemical-free. Given the small scale of the industry, international certification is too expensive, but there is a push towards certification within the Southeast Asia region. There is already an existing standard, the Asia Regional Organic Standard. German development agency, GIZ, has supported the development of organic farming in Cambodia.

Unlike developed countries, organic fruit and vegetables do not always command significantly higher market prices in Cambodia. There is a good argument, however, that they should: technical advisers to the industry say some of the most toxic pesticides, banned by the World Health Organisation, are still available in Cambodia, with little government enforcement or regulation of their use. Challenges in greater adoption of organic farming include the fact that it requires new skills and knowledge, and that the products may grow at a slower pace than those that are treated with chemicals.

Last update: 6 April 2016

Related to agricultural production

  • Agricultural policy and administration
  • Agricultural commodities, processing and products
  • Adaptation

Agricultural commodities, processing and products

Key agricultural commodities and products include rice, rubber, corn (maize), vegetables and fruit, and cassava (tapioca). More than 90 percent of Cambodia’s agricultural exports in 2015 were unprocessed.

The country’s agricultural gross production grew by 8.7% annually over 2004–2012, one of the highest growth rates in the world. This growth largely came from big jumps in crop production of paddy rice (9% annual growth), maize (20%), cassava (51%), sugarcane (22%), and vegetables (10%). 

However, in 2013–2014, agricultural growth slowed down to 1%. Cambodia’s 2014 export of about 387,100 tonnes of rice was an increase of just 2% over the 378,850 tonnes shipped in 2013. Prices were down around 30%. The government’s target of 1 million tonnes of rice exports in 2015 (set in 2010) was not met. There have been reduced prices for other products too, including rubber and corn.

High quality, big challenges

A number of Cambodian products have an international reputation for high quality. For three years running in 2012, 2013 and 2014 Cambodian premium jasmine rice won World’s Best Rice award. Kampot pepper has Geographical Indication (GI) status, a World Trade Organization initiative that links the quality of a product to its origin. 

Yet there are big hurdles to overcome in developing the agricultural sector, building processing industries and securing large export growth. Some of the issues:

  • There is a severe lack of processing facilities for many products including rice, rubber and cashews.
  • A lack of storage facilities for many agricultural commodities, including rice, corn and rubber, means they must be sold when they are harvested, regardless of the market price at the time – they cannot be stored until prices rise. There are still many areas of the country where there is no electricity supply, and power prices are high compared to some other countries in the region. This makes it harder to develop processing industries, and makes operating costs higher.
  • Global food and commodity prices have fallen, and are not forecast to rise significantly.
  • Some producers talk about transport and infrastructure problems, such as the difficulty of getting large volumes of rice exported through the port.
  • There is an extremely limited budget for promoting Cambodian products overseas.
  • Some agricultural products are only exported to neighboring countries, and demand and prices can be volatile.

Government policy

Agricultural development, particularly the growth of processing, is a big element of the Cambodia Industrial Development Policy 2015–2025 that was publicly launched in August 2015. A key target in the policy is increasing processed agricultural exports to 12 percent, a 4 percent increase on the figure for 2015.

Commodities and products

There are big differences in what can be earned from different crops, and World Bank research indicates that different margins may be driving some changes in Cambodia. The share of total area planted under paddy rice declined from 86 to 74 percent from 2002 to 2011, while the share of area for maize and cassava production increased significantly. In 2013, average farm gross margins (and returns to labor) were $506/ha ($9.4/day) for cassava, $303/ha ($8.8/day) for maize, and $1,393/ha ($7.2/day) for vegetable production, compared to $245/ha ($4.6/day) for wet season rice and $296/ha ($9.6/day) for dry season rice.

Within rice production there are changes too. More farmers are producing aromatic paddy, which is more profitable. Production is estimated at 10 percent of the rice cultivated area and 30 percent of total production. 

Natural rubber

World rubber prices hit a peak of $4,850 per tonne in 2011, but then gradually fell down to $1,100 per tonne at the start of 2016. Deliberately reduced output from some major rubber-producing countries led to an improvement in price to $1,580 per tonne by October 2016. 

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data shows that exports for the first 9 months of 2016 were 82,825 tons, up almost 11 percent from the same period in the previous year. The land area under cultivation has also risen, to 402,310 hectares in September 2016. This means that the government's target of 400,000 hectares by 2020 has already been exceeded. 

Source: Singapore/Malaysia rubber price



The area under cassava more than doubled in the years 2005–2013.

A lack of processing factories in Cambodia means there is little value added, however. Instead of exporting products such as cassava chips, mostly unprocessed cassava and cassava flour is exported to Thailand, Vietnam and China. Cambodia’s raw cassava is processed in these countries and reexported.

Cambodia exported 173,387 tons of unprocessed cassava and cassava flour in the first quarter of 2016, Ministry of Commerce figures show. (In 2015, Thailand exported 7.46 million tons of cassava chips worth $1.56 billion to China alone.)


Corn has faced falling prices and falling export demand in recent years. Prices in 2014 were 40 percent below those of 2013. Battambang leads Cambodia’s corn production with over 27,000 hectares. On average, farmers are producing up to 4 tonnes of corn per hectare. Lack of storage silos is a major problem.

Last update: 14 December 2016

Related to agricultural commodities, processing and products


(Wild capture) Commercial fishing and natural fisheries

Sorting the Catch, Cambodia. Photo by Julia Maudlin, taken on 27 January 2014. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Sorting the catch, Cambodia. Photo by Julia Maudlin, taken on 27 January 2014. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The 2006 Fisheries Law classifies fishing activity into three broad categories: family or subsistence, small-scale and commercial.

Commercial fishing is allowed only in the open season of October to May while family fishers have year-round open access. In spite of restrictions on commercial operations and the type of fishing gear used, fish captures are substantial.

The total value of Cambodian fishery production as estimated by the Inland Fisheries Research Development Institute is in the range of $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion, of which:

  • $800 million to $1,000 million is from freshwater capture fisheries
  • $97 million to $117 million is from inland aquaculture
  • $11 million to $13 million is from marine aquaculture
  • $325 million to $425 million is from marine capture fisheries

In 2012, in response to concerns about overfishing, which can quickly deplete local fish populations, the government withdrew all fishing lot licenses. Commercial fishing on the Tonle Sap Lake was banned permanently. The aim was to restore local villagers’ access to local fishing grounds and to encourage conservation.

Since the ban, 158 commercial fishing lots totaling 953,861 hectares have been cancelled, of which about 98,000 hectares have been set aside as conservation areas. The government cancelled fishing lots in a bid to replenish waterways and aid small-scale fishers, yet illegal fishing remains a critical problem.

In March 2014, the Phnom Penh Post reported that local production has increased dramatically since the ban, stating that fishers netted 718,000 tonnes in 2013 compared to 360,000 tonnes in 2012.

Last updated: 30 September 2015

Related to (wild capture) commercial fishing and natural fisheries


Fisheries production

Local workers loading fresh catch to be transported to the city market at Chhnoc Trou pier, Kampong Chhnang province, Cambodia. Photograph by Sylyvann Borei / World Fish taken on 7 April 2014. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

Local workers loading fresh catch to be transported to the city market at Chhnoc Trou pier, Kampong Chhnang province, Cambodia. Photo by Sylyvann Borei/World Fish, taken on 7 April 2014. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Cambodia has abundant and productive fisheries. Fish is a traditional staple in the Cambodian diet and vital to nutrition and food security. The country’s inland fisheries form part of the Mekong River system, the biggest inland fishery in the world yielding around 2.1 million tonnes of fish each year. Cambodian fishery resources are unparalleled on a global scale, too. The country holds two world records: the highest catch of inland fisheries per capita and the highest consumption of freshwater fish per capita. According to a 2015 WorldFish report, Cambodians are among the highest consumers of freshwater fish in the world, with annual per capita fish consumption estimated at 52.4 kg.

Fishing industry on the Tonle Sap Lake employs about 2 million people in capture, culture, processing, trade and transport. The Cambodian Fisheries Administration estimated that the total fish catch landed from the Lake in 2012 was about 500,000 tonnes.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) reports that freshwater fisheries production fluctuated from 2012 to 2014. Freshwater fish captures peaked at 505,005 tonnes in 2013, and then dropped by around 4 percent in 2014. In contrast, marine fisheries and aquaculture have made stronger growth. Marine fisheries went up from 99,000 tonnes in 2012 to 120,250 tonnes in 2014, representing an increase of 17 percent. Aquaculture production rose from 74,000 tonnes in 2012 to 120,055 tonnes in 2014, an increase of 38 percent.

Speaking at the National Fish Day in July 2015, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ouk Rabun highlighted the remarkable growth of aquaculture production, with 65,000 households involved in fish farming, up from 61,000 in 2013. The minister also noted the importance of freshwater fish production for family consumption as well as for local and export markets.

Last updated: 30 September 2015

Related to fisheries production


Community fisheries

Community Fishery Refuges, Battambang, Cambodia. Photograph by Alan Brooks. icensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

Community fishery refuges, Battambang, Cambodia. Photo by Alan Brooks/WorldFish, taken on 2 November 2011. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Fishing practices in Cambodia are classified into three broad categories: small-scale or family fishing, medium-scale and large-scale or commercial fishing.

In 2001, aware of the need to safeguard fish stocks and in an attempt to resolve long-standing conflicts between small-scale and large-scale fishers, the government embarked on a reform of the country’s fisheries management and regulations. This happened in two phases. First, in 2001, 56 percent of total fishing lots, previously allocated for private owners, were designated as open access. Then, in 2012, the remaining fishing lots were abolished and fishing rights given to all Cambodian citizens to manage natural fisheries resources in their area through the establishment of community fisheries (CFi).

Fisheries management suffers from a number of problems that are mostly related to governance issues. Another important issue is lack of community involvement, or rather, failure to engage local communities in conserving fisheries resources. Despite the release of fishing grounds for community use, illegal fishing and conflict remain a challenge.

Community fisheries were initially introduced into Cambodia in the late 1990s as a means to improve the management of local fisheries and ensure local food security. According to MAFF’s 2014 annual report, Cambodia now has 516 CFi, of which 477 are in freshwater inland areas and 39 in marine waters. Of these, 370 are recognized by MAFF, 14 are pending registration and 23 waiting for approval at subnational level. Some CFi have still not been recognized by local authorities.

The 2006 Fishery Law defines community fishing areas as “the fishery domain of the state handed over to the community fishery under the agreement between the chief of Cantonment of the Fisheries Administration and the communities or groups of citizens living inside or around the fishery domain. Those citizens are mainly dependent on fisheries for their daily life and using traditional fishing gears for fishing … [sic.].”

In 2007 the government issued a Sub-decree on Community Fisheries Management which sets out rules for the establishment, management and use of CFi. Only small-scale fishing gear can be used in CFi. By law, CFi come under the general jurisdiction of MAFF.

Although remarkable progress has been made, CFi continue to face such challenges as weak law enforcement and lack of capacity, incentives and income for people to actively participate in the sustainable management of CFi.

Last updated: 30 September 2015

Related to community fisheries


Fish farming and aquaculture

Fish farmers operating cage culture, Cambodia. Photograph by O. Joffre. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

Fish farmers operating cage culture, Cambodia. Photo by O. Joffre/WorldFish, taken on 3 October 2009. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Aquaculture accounts for approximately 7 percent of Cambodia’s overall fish production. Freshwater aquaculture systems include cages and pens, intensive ponds, extensive homeland ponds, community fish refuge (CFR) ponds and integrated rice-fish farms. A CFR is a form of stock enhancement or a fish conservation measure that is intended to improve the productivity of rice field fisheries by creating dry season refuges for brood fish in seasonally inundated rice fields.

In coastal areas, aquaculture systems include fish and shrimp farms. Based on the 2014 Annual Report of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), 301 fish hatcheries operate in Cambodia and 65,000 families are engaged in small-scale aquaculture. As of 2014, MAFF had established 802 community fish ponds across the country, with 173 in Kampong Speu province alone.

According to MAFF, fish farming in 2014 yielded 120,055 tonnes of fish, up 30,055 tonnes in 2013. However, the statistics show declines in crocodile farming and fish seed production. Fish seed production decreased from 150 million eggs in 2013 to 120 million eggs in 2014. And production at crocodile farms dropped from 320,000 crocodiles in 2013 to 215,500 in 2014.

Cambodia still cannot export crocodile skins to international markets because its farms have not yet been able to fulfill industry standards. Currently, 16 farms have applied for a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) license, while only six have so far obtained approval to export skins.

Having obtained a CITES license, in 2015 Cambodia reached a landmark deal to export 1,000 crocodile skins to France, where buyers want grade C skins, a standard which is not so hard to meet. Cambodia currently exports crocodile skins to the European Union. Also, it exports crocodile skins and meat to Vietnam, Thailand and China.

In 2014, a Japanese ‘third water’ technique was introduced in Cambodia whereby artificial river and sea water is created through blending fresh water with a mix of minerals, including salts of sodium, potassium and calcium. The project, in the mountainous province of Takeo, is led by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Roughly 30,000 giant river prawns, which sell for eight times the price of fish in Cambodia, are to be reared at each of three farms.

 Last updated: 30 September 2015

Related to fish farming and aquaculture


Fishing, fisheries and aquaculture

Cambodian fish farmer checking on fish quality. Photograph by USAID U.S. Agency for International Development. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

Cambodian fish farmer checking on fish quality. Photo by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), taken on 16 October 2012. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Cambodia’s inland capture fisheries are among the largest in the world. The fishing industry encompasses subsistence, commercial and recreational fishing, as well as the harvesting, processing and marketing sectors.

Fisheries and aquaculture play a vital role in the country’s economy and make an important contribution to food and nutrition security. The Tonle Sap Lake and Tonle Sap River are considered the world's most productive inland fisheries, providing about 75 percent of Cambodia's annual inland fish catch and 60 percent of its populations’ protein intake.

Cambodia's coastal waters are also very productive and rich in fisheries resources. The coastal area stretches for 435 km across the four provinces of Koh Kong, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Kep. Marine fisheries are mainly exploited by small and medium-scale local fishers, and large-scale fishing is dominated by foreign companies.

The 2014 Annual Report of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries puts total fisheries production at 745,310 tonnes, 505,005 tonnes from freshwater fisheries, 120,250 tonnes from marine fisheries and 120,055 tonnes from aquaculture.

Emerging trends

In 2014 the European Commission officially banned all fish imports from Cambodia to the European Union (EU) after foreign fishing vessels bearing the Cambodian flag were caught fishing illegally in international waters. However, according to the Fisheries Administration, apart from damaging Cambodia’s reputation, the ban will not affect fish imports as Cambodia does not supply EU fish markets due to non-compliance with HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points) inspection systems.[/ref] Fish is mainly exported to Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Australia and Russia.

Multiple private fishing companies exist in Cambodia.  But  Kampuchea Fish Import and Export Company, a state-owned enterprise and the largest fishing firm, has the sole rights to export fish.

Reports of illegal fishing, including the smuggling of fish out of the country, are thought to be responsible for the failure of official government trade figures to reflect the robust trade in freshwater fish. The total value of fishery exports in 2013 was $934,824, a fraction of the almost $7 billion worth of exported goods. Even as Cambodia’s fish are being sent out of the country, domestic demand for fish is reportedly being met by imports from Vietnam.

Last updated: 30 September 2015

Related to fishing, fisheries and aquaculture


Fishing policy and administration

Fishing on the Siem Reap. Photograph by Brian Hoffman. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

Young man fishing with a cast net on Siem Reap river, Cambodia. Photo by Brian Hoffman, taken on 12 January 2015. Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Fisheries management in Cambodia is divided between central and local governments. At the central level, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) oversees the Fishery sector. Within MAFF, the Fisheries Administration (FiA) is responsible for fisheries research and development, laws and policies and has inspection powers.

The Strategic Planning Framework for Fisheries 2010-2019 sets out the government's vision for the sector: "Management, conservation, and development of sustainable fisheries resources to contribute to ensuring people’s food security and to socioeconomic development in order to enhance people’s livelihoods and the nation’s prosperity".

Fisheries policy

Ensuring the sustainable management of fish resources and establishing effective trade mechanisms within the fisheries sector is goals encompassed in the National Strategic Plan Update 2014-2018.

The Strategic Planning Framework for Fisheries 2010–2019 is built around three fundamental pillars: fisheries (marine and inland), aquaculture (marine and inland), post-harvest and trade. The plan aims that by 2019, wild fish capture production is stabilized and sustained at not more than 500,000 tonnes per year; rice field fish production is increased by 15 percent annually, to reach 500,000 tonnes; and aquaculture production is increased by 15 percent annually, to reach 185,000 tonnes per year. The plan also includes targets to eliminate child labor in the fisheries sector.

Regulatory framework

The enactment of 2006 Fisheries Law represented a positive step towards better fisheries management including the conservation of fish and their natural habitats. The new 125-article law replaces the outdated 1987 Fisheries Law.

The 2006 Fisheries Law encourages the creation and proper maintenance of conservation area and promotes the development of aquaculture. It also aims to ensure long-term conservation and sustainable management of fishery resources taking into account social, economic and environmental factors. The law ensures local community rights to use fishery resources for traditional, religious and livelihood purposes through the establishment of community fisheries.

The Royal Decree for Community Fishery Establishment and the Sub-decree on Community Fishery Management allows serious penalties to be applied to those who break fisheries law, including government officers. To investigate, prevent and counteract illegal activities and compile documents for submission to the courts, the FiA officers are considered as judicial fisheries police and are tasked with enforcing fisheries regulations.

The Cambodian Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries – known as CamCode, contains guidelines and best practice principles for the use of all stakeholders in the fisheries sector.

International initiatives

Cambodia is a member of many international treaties and conventions which provide a broad legal framework for fisheries management. These include the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (1995), MARPOL (1994), Biodiversity Convention (1994), Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITTES) (1997), Ramsar Convention (1999) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

With respect to regional agreements, Cambodia is a member of the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific, an intergovernmental organization that promotes rural development through sustainable aquaculture. 

The 1995 Mekong Agreement between Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, codifies many governing principles of international environmental law, and establishes mechanism for cooperation and sustainable development and use of water-related resources including fisheries in the Mekong River Basin.

With reference to international trade and cooperation regarding fish products and fisheries management, Cambodia is a member of the World Trade Organization, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which promotes cooperation for the development of aquaculture through the 1983 ASEAN Ministerial Understanding on Fisheries Cooperation and the ASEAN Free Trade Area.

Last updated: 30 September 2015

Related to fishing policy and administration


Agriculture and fishing


Cambodia’s economy continues to be dominated by agriculture, with exports contributing US$758.4 million in 2014. More than 70% of Cambodians depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Fishing and fisheries make up another cornerstone of Cambodia’s rural economy, providing an estimated 80% of animal protein in the typical Cambodian diet.

Agricultural policy

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is responsible for overseeing agriculture in Cambodia. The Cambodian government has prioritized agriculture as a key sector for development since it first released its Rectangular Strategy. Version III of the strategy aims to push agricultural investment beyond strengthening rural incomes, into improved technology, research and development, crop diversification and promotion of commercial production and agro-industries.

This signals a transition away from small-scale family farms to industrial farming. The trend is partly enabled by government lease of large land holdings to private companies as economic land concessions (ELC). Contract farming and private land leases are other vehicles through which industrial agriculture is expanding.

While the government expects the agricultural sector to grow by 4 percent per year to 2018, this is a significantly lower rate than the industrial or service sectors. Overall agricultural sector growth is considered weak, slowing to just 1–2 percent in 2013–2014, and suffering from low productivity, vulnerability to flooding and drought, inadequate infrastructure, in particular irrigation and, in some places, declining soil fertility.

These factors affect different types of farmers in different ways. Cambodia’s small-scale agrarian family farms tend to be rain-fed, utilize native seed, and can afford few inputs. These farmers produce mostly for their own households, with any surpluses sold only on the local market. Their practices are rooted in traditions that are generations old. Like small farmers anywhere they tend to be risk averse and highly vulnerable to flood and drought, pest and disease infestations, and other threats. They are often ill-equipped to cope with new challenges such as changing climate and increasing land pressure. In 2006, the World Bank reported that the average farm size of rural poor families was less than 1.5 hectares of land, while 40% survived on less than half a hectare. Their adoption of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, typically without training, direction in Khmer language, or proper equipment, raise environmental and health concerns. Small farmers also tend to have limited access to markets.

In contrast, large-scale producers are constrained by infrastructure limitations and low levels of skilled labor. Some companies have also met conflicts with local communities, regarding land and natural resources rights.

The World Bank’s data records a downward trend in the contribution of value-added agricultural to GDP, from 37% in 2011 to 30% in 2014, along with a decline in the annual growth rate of the same, to -1 percent in 2014.

Crops and commodities

Rice is Cambodia’s primary crop. Despite the government’s “White Gold” policy target for lifting production to one million tonnes of milled rice for export by 2015, actual rice exports for 2015 came to just 538,396 tonnes.. This was a significant jump from 2014 exports of 378,061 tonnes, however. Average paddy yield increased from 2.83 tonnes per ha in 2009 to 3.3 tonnes per ha in 2014. This was lower than neighbouring producers such as Thailand (3.5 tonnes/ha), Laos (4.1 tonnes) and Vietnam (6.2 tonnes).

In line with the Rectangular Strategy, diversification into other crops such as corn, sugarcane, cashew nut, rubber and cassava has expanded. The land area of non-paddy crops grew from 210,000 ha in 2008 to 770,000 ha in 2012, and the area under rubber nearly doubled between 2008 and 2013, when it reached 307,854 ha.

International investments in the sector are becoming more visible. For example, in April 2016 a $360 million Chinese-owned sugar mill was officially opened in Preah Vihear province. The plant has an annual production capacity of 360,000 tonnes of sugar, 50,000 litres of ethanol and 9 megawatts of electricity.

Fishing and fisheries

In 2015, 751,546 tons of fish were caught, representing an increase of 6,236 tons compared with 2014. Of total output, 487,905 tons (65%) were from fresh water, 120,500 tons (16%) from salt water and 143,141 (19%) from fish farms.

While the government’s research for development planning expects this to increase to 910,000 tonnes by 2018, there are also simultaneous reports of falling fish numbers due to considerable pressure from environmental changes and population growth. One study cites predictions of a 40-60 percent decline in inland fishery yields for both Vietnam and Cambodia “in the foreseeable future”.

Aquaculture is expected to grow quickly, from 143,141 tons in 2015 to 171,000 by 2018.

Cambodia exports fish, prawns, crabs, and other seafood to China, Japan, Russia and some ASEAN countries. The EU has banned fish imports from Cambodia, citing Cambodia’s failure to implement and comply with international legal obligations. Examples are that Cambodia does not act against illegal fishing by non-Cambodian vessels flying the Cambodian flag, and also lacks a legal framework, and effective monitoring, inspection and catch certification schemes.

The government began to reform its fisheries management system in 2001 by reducing the number of commercial lots, culminating in in 2012 with the abolition of all commercial lots on the Tonle Sap. The change was intended to conserve fish stocks and support subsistence fishermen. Some NGOs, however, say that illegal fishing has increased in recent years. The government confirms this: officials said cases of illegal fishing continued to rise in 2015, when almost 4,000 illegal fishing offenses were stopped and 181 were sent to court.

Another challenge facing freshwater fisheries is the development of dams such as the Lower Sesan II dam. Numerous studies have cautioned that dams will have a major impact on fish migration, fish breeding and fish stocks, and that there is little prospect of mitigating these effects.

Last updated: 14 December 2016

Related to agriculture and fishing


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