Vietnamese Produce Imports Up 30 Percent

Agricultural imports from Viet­nam have skyrocketed in the first nine months of 2004, officials and news reports said Monday, leaving authorities in Kandal province searching for ways to buttress the local economy.

According to the Vietnam News Agency, Vietnam exported $126 million in fruit and vegetables to Cambodia in the first three-quarters of this year, a 30 percent jump over the same period last year.

The booming cross-border trade has spurred growth for Vietnam’s farmers, the news report said. An Giang province’s Cho Moi district alone ships       60 per­cent of its vegetables to the Cambodian markets.

The refurbishment of National Roads 1 and 2, which link Kandal and Takeo provinces to Vietnam, has been accompanied by an increase in trucks carrying produce from Vietnam to Cambodia, local officials said.

“No other road is better than my link” to Vietnam, said Ngou Chheang, governor of Kandal’s Koh Thom district, through which National Road 1 passes. “Even though I don’t have a real figure on the number of tons or trucks of vegetables from Vietnam, it is a huge amount of imports.”

He blamed the disparity on Cambodia’s relative lack of farming technology and expertise. Koh Thom authorities are planning to invite Vietnamese agricultural ex­perts to help develop the district’s fruit and vegetable production.

“We have such a great land, but we lack technical expertise,” Ngou Chheang said. “Vietna­mese farmers have enough electricity and irrigation systems, so they have more opportunities to produce large amounts of agricultural products at lower costs.”

Hotels, restaurants and other large-scale produce consumers are unwilling to rely on Cam­bodian farmers because the Cambodian agricultural industry is too unstable to assure a consistent flow of produce, said Mao Thura, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce.

“If you make a contract to buy vegetables or fruits, you need a contract with an assured market,” he said Monday.

In another bid to boost domestic production, the Council of Min­isters passed a sub-decree last month that will create chambers of commerce in six provinces, including Kandal, Mao Thura said.

Cambodia’s total exports to Vietnam this year have not yet been calculated, said Thon Virak, deputy director of foreign trade at the Ministry of Commerce. “We are too busy looking at trade from the USA,” he said.

In addition to fruits and vegetables, Cambodia also imports large amounts of vegetable oil, nuts, instant noodles and fertilizer from Vietnam, VNA reported.

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