Cambodia’s Economic Opportunity

While significant obstacles remain, the success of the rice sector is a potentially crucial driver in Cambodia’s prosperous and equitable development. … Cambodia announced two major bilateral trade agreements recently, with the Philippines and Thailand, that are expected to further expand the country’s rice export sector. … Agriculture, led by rice farming, contributes to roughly a third of the country’s GDP and has immense potential for strengthening Cambodia’s economic growth, accelerating poverty reduction, and improving the living standard of its citizens. As part of this agenda, in 2010, the RGC adopted a new Policy Paper on Paddy Production and Rice Export, better known as the Rice Policy, to promote diversification of Cambodia’s economic sectors by catalyzing growth in paddy rice production and milled rice export to match the growth seen in the garment and service sectors. … If Cambodia’s rice export sector were to reach its full potential, it could produce 3 million tons of milled rice, with the total export value amounting to $2.1 billion (approximately 20% of the GDP) and an estimated additional $600 million (approximately 5% of the GDP) to the national economy. It would also boost employment and income for agricultural farmers who make up more than 70 percent of the population living in rural areas. … Poor transport and infrastructure such as roads, railways, warehouses, and handling equipment also increase costs for farmers. … The lack of handling equipment in one of the main ports, the Sihanoukville Port, is also a major constraint for the export of large quantities of milled rice. … As a relatively new player in the milled rice market, Cambodia faces a steep learning curve. However, with a surplus of 3.5 million tons of paddy rice (equivalent to 2 million tons of milled rice), Cambodia has the potential to soon be among the top five milled rice exporters in the world.