Cambodia and its fellow Asean states are hoping to supply India with green beans after Asean forms a Free Trade Area with the nation of 1.5 billion inhabitants.
“I think we should know that Indians eat green beans as much as Cambodians eat rice,” said Ministry of Commerce Secretary of State Sok Siphana.
Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh recently returned from New Delhi where trade ministers from Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore met for two days with their Indian counterparts.
Cham Prasidh said he told his colleagues at the summit that more cooperation is needed between Asean and India, and that Cambodia intended to strengthen that relationship.
Statistics show that Cambodia’s trade with India is dwarfed by the amount of goods going between India and other Asean countries Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, according to Seang Thay, the deputy director for the Commerce Ministry’s Asean and International Cooperation Department. “The figures show that we still export a small amount to India,” he said.
Seang Thay said that Asean nations now import $3.37 billion worth of goods from India a year, while Asean exports to India are valued at $4.09 billion.
As the world’s most densely populated country, India has great potential as a trade partner, Sok Siphana said. It also consumes huge volumes of green beans. He said the government is considering instructing local farmers to begin planting them.
Sok Siphana said he was not concerned with the logistics of exporting beans to India, but he is not sure that Cambodia could meet the international market’s demands and secure contracts.
Cambodia might only be able to supply its own local markets, he said.
Hem Kimsan, the executive director of Cambodia International Development, Agriculture and Trade, Inc, said that if the country wants to export agricultural goods it must modernize its farming methods. Compared to those of neighboring countries, Cambodia’s harvests are meager, he said.
Hem Kimsan criticized the traditional, low-tech farming practices and poor packaging standards as handicaps in the international market. He also blamed Cambodian farmers for damaging their credibility by mixing bags of beans with sand and water to cheat their buyers’ scales.
“They have hurt their credibility and the quality of their own products,” he said. “Not only in the European market, even in Vietnam and Thailand they refuse to by products from Cambodia.”
However, Hem Kimsan said, if the government can guarantee that India will buy Cambodian beans, his company will work to modernize the country’s agricultural practices and ensure conformity to international market standards.
“I think our farmers will be happy to produce more green beans, if a trade partnership ensures a price to make sure [buyers] will not break an agreement,” he said.
Hem Kimsan estimated that Cambodia has the cropland to produce 100,000 tons of green beans a year. “We are able to produce any amount they want. But they have to guarantee they will buy from us,” he said. “We can ensure the quality with any standard.”