US Cambodia relations

The US Seeks to Elevate Cambodia’s Agriculture Sector Through New USDA Office

USDA has opened its first office in Cambodia with the aim of bolstering agricultural trade, but fears have been raised that rocky relations between the two nations may hamper progress.
A vendor rides a motorcycle loaded with bananas along a street in Phnom Penh on March 17, 2021. Picture: Stringer
A vendor rides a motorcycle loaded with bananas along a street in Phnom Penh on March 17, 2021. Picture: Stringer

Hopes are high that agricultural trade between Cambodia and the US will be strengthened after the opening of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) first office in Cambodia. However, the rewards are yet to be seen, industry leaders claim.

The office opened its door in the US Embassy in Phnom Penh in September with the aim of strengthening agricultural trade between the two countries, increasing food security, and sustainability, and elevating food diplomacy.

US officials on a recent field trip in Krakor district, Pursat province. Picture: US Embassy
US officials on a recent field trip in Krakor district, Pursat province. Picture: US Embassy

Chan Sokheang, CEO of Bayon Heritage Company, Signature of Asia Company, and Vice President of Cambodia Rice Federation, said since the office opened its doors, there has been no significant development yet.

“Ambassador W. Patrick Murphy mentioned USDA is seeking to help both countries in transferring the knowledge of agriculture,” he added.

One promotional activity saw USDA host a public relations event surrounding the trade of Cambodia and U.S. products.

“We think this is the place (USDA) where we can communicate with the U.S. in helping to open the market for Cambodia in the future. I think the U.S. is also looking forward to importing agricultural products from the U.S. to Cambodia.”

Sokheang added that the US has set up offices worldwide, with Cambodia being the 94th.

He said USDA presence is a start in promoting bilateral trade between the US and Cambodia in the agricultural sector.

“Again, it is the starting point and we didn’t expect much from this because we need to deal with business relations between Cambodia and the US.”

According to the US Embassy Phnom Penh press release, ‘United States opens first Department of Agriculture office in Cambodia’, USDA’s work reaches across the Kingdom to support bilateral agricultural trade and collaboration, benefitting both.

“There’s a great appetite for American agricultural products and technology in Cambodia, and this new USDA office will work to make them more available to Cambodian consumers and producers,” said Ambassador Murphy.

“That’s good news for both countries, and it reflects our longstanding commitment to ensuring Cambodian people have access to high-quality goods and services from the United States,”  he said.

Cambodia is a growing market for U.S. agricultural exports, with $72.7 million in sales in 2020 – a 474 percent increase during the past 10 years.