Opening Remark by Nick Beresford: Cassava Business and Investment ForumNov 7, 2017
H.E. Pan Sorasak, Minister of Commerce
Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning to all.
It is an honour to speak on behalf of UNDP at the opening of this high-level forum on promoting business and investment in Cambodia’s Cassava industry. It is a pleasure to welcome so many expert speakers and discussants, many of whom are joining us from overseas.
At the outset, I must thank and congratulate H.E. Pan Sorasak, Minister of Commerce and his team, for organizing this important and timely event, and for developing an impressive agenda for our discussions over the next two days.
Cassava is the most important upland crop in Cambodia, and the country’s second biggest agricultural export after rice. Its production has increased rapidly due to buoyant global demand for the many final products derived from it, and this provides a highly favorable long-term outlook. This has led to millions of Cambodian smallholders to cultivate cassava, and rely on it wholly or in part, for their livelihoods. This is in many respects, a positive development in and of itself, reducing dependency on rice and boosting economic diversification in often lagging and vulnerable regions.
However, it is now vital that Cambodia move forward to secure greater value-addition from cassava production. This includes connecting Cambodian producers to higher value outlets, enabling greater cassava processing inside Cambodia, and boosting its domestic use in a host of subsectors. These offer new sources of growth for Cambodia, opportunities for the development of rural areas, and the expansion of household incomes – especially low-income farming families that can also contribute and share in that prosperity.
UNDP is partnering with the Ministry of Commerce and other development partners, to deliver the required step change in national cassava production and national value chains, specifically - expanding to new markets and raising overall productivity.
We see a very clear business case for private sector investment in cassava here in Cambodia. The country affords highly competitive prices for raw and processed cassava. It has remarkably fertile soil that can produce 20 MT per hector. It’s well placed to access the major markets in the ASEAN nations and South Asia.
I also want to emphasize the wider role of the Royal Government of Cambodia and in particular the Ministry of Commerce in providing the necessary enabling environment – in derisking and crowding in high levels of private investment. The domestic private sector requires supportive polices and public investments in key areas where private investment is not viable. This includes the delivery of key public services and infrastructure to connect farmers and firms to economic opportunities.
In addition, foreign direct investment has a crucial role to play. Traditionally this has focused on establishing and building physical productive capacity, and this remains an important part of the mix, but FDI should increasingly be levered as a means of bringing innovation and cutting-edge knowledge into Cambodia – with the goal of boosting domestic technology and scientific expertise.
And I note that I will be facilitating the session on R&D and innovation this afternoon, and look forward to discussing this specific area.
First, very positively, the alignment between private sector investment decisions and sustainability objectives has been growing in Cambodia; inclusive business approaches have accelerated responsible investment practices incorporating environmental, social and governance considerations. What I mean by sustainable production is making more money tomorrow as well as today – encouraging long term high quality investment.
Second, successful promotion of investment in the cassava sector requires that public policy and legislative reforms are informed by serious stakeholder dialogue. And that’s exactly what we’re doing here today. I congratulate the Ministry of Commerce for bringing us together.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that UNDP is fully committed to strengthening and advancing our collaboration with the Royal Government of Cambodia companies and investors on this crucial sector.
I look forward to learning and sharing with you over the next two days. Thank you.
These are the links to the panel discussions of the forum.
Session 1: Investing in Cambodia’s Cassava
Session 2: Leveraging Value Chains Opportunities
Session 3: Cassava R&D and Innovations
Session 4: Export Capabilities and Technologies