The Cambodian government has reverted its focus to small-scale farming amid COVID-19 to address the massive number of laid-off workers from the garment, tourism, construction, and transportation industries. Typical rural Cambodian farmers own small-sized landholdings and lack technical skills in agricultural cultivation. There are doubts if such a move can substitute for the job losses in the COVID-19 affected sectors.
This is seen as a strategy to support the continuation of the benefits from the European Union’s (EU) tariff-free trade privileges under the “Everything But Arms Agreement” (EBA). The EU will still support Cambodia’s rice and agricultural products, according to a joint EU report.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the government had confirmed partial withdrawal of the EU’s EBA over concerns about human rights abuses and democratic decay. When it takes effect on August 12, 2020, the partial withdrawal of Cambodia’s trade privileges under EBA is likely to be hardest felt in the garment, footwear, travel goods, and sugar industries. The impact could cost around one-fifth or 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) of Cambodia’s annual exports to the EU.