H.E. Pan Sorasak, Minister of Commerce;

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good morning to you all.

It is a pleasure to speak at today’s meeting on behalf of UNDP, and to endorse the National Cassava Sector Development Policy.

I especially recognize the leadership of H.E Pan Sorasak, Minister of Commerce, and I congratulate the Cassava Working Group, for producing a high quality technical draft in the required timeframe.  I must also recognize the guidance and contribution of H.E Mao Thora Secretary of State of Ministry of Commerce, and pro-active support from the Ministry of Commerce’s Trade Policy, and the Private Sector Development Departments, and the Trade Training and Research Institute.  These partnerships and harmonized efforts have created a conducive environment enabling the sharing of information, and exchange on technical and policy issues to validate and to reach consensus on vision, priorities, strategies, actions - the core elements of this policy.

Cassava is an important crop for Cambodia’s economy, it offers new export-based income streams and a means of agricultural diversification.  Crucially also, as an industrial crop with an established global market, it has structural advantages promoting Cambodia’s upward movement through the value chain. Cassava also matters for the livelihoods and opportunities enjoyed in rural communities by smallholder farmers.  The National Policy once enacted will lead to more systematic support to address the challenges faced, enhancing efficiency and expanding the value chain – offering a win for the economy and a win for those employed in its cultivation and allied activities.

In highly competitive global and regional markets, dominated by strong regional neighbours, Cambodia needs to position its product well, and find new higher value outlets. This must draw its core strengths, a quality product, with a high starch content, based on fresh to market cassava production, at a highly competitive price.

Yet, equally, in time, the sector must also deliver step changes in value added. This is both by relentlessly improving the quality and reliability of supply, and by enabling Cambodia to capture a greater share of the value chain itself, building domestic processing capacity and advanced marketing and trading mechanisms.

Investment in physical and human capitals are central to delivering these aims. The strengthening of the policy and regulatory environment, signaled by endorsement of the development policy, is a vital requirement in mobilizing private sector capital.  The policy provides both a guiding strategy and signals the strong commitment of the Royal Government to the sector.  Transitioning from a business as usual approach, will however will require time and sustained efforts, and it is important that the policy is follow-up with solid implementation measures, and specifically, a stronger engagement with the private sector to understand constraints faced and the market dynamics.

I will close there. I again pay tribute to the Minister himself, the Ministry of Commerce team, and our development partners for engaging so effectively with UNDP on the development this National Policy.  This bodes very well for our ongoing partnership with the Ministry, and UNDP is looking forward to cooperating on a new chapter of the cassava development story.

Very finally, I reiterate that official support for cassava offers win-win outcomes, benefiting the wider economy and boosting the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, and hence offers a genuine channel for inclusive growth.  It is through efforts like the policy endorsed today, that Cambodia can simultaneously achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and reach upper middle-income country status by 2030.

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