Cambodia should be on the radar for Kiwi agribusiness looking for export opportunities, even though the small nation is decades behind other developing Asian countries, a rural economist says.
Cambodia remains one of Asia's least developed countries after years of conflict but last year the Government introduced a series of initiatives to boost agricultural products. In January the country also ratified a free trade agreement between New Zealand, Australia and the Association of Southeast Asia which has created opportunities for Kiwi exporters to connect with the fast-growing Asian region.
ASB rural economist James Shortall said Cambodia was still a decade behind Vietnam and potentially 30 years behind China. "But there is such massive opportunities out of those areas which are going to be supportive of farm and agricultural farmers here in New Zealand for the next 30, 40 or 50 years."
While Cambodia was still at the development stage, he said: "There certainly seems to be an opportunity for New Zealand brands to take that first step and be quite integral through that [development] stage.
"It would be about getting your product in there and taking a long-term view ... would be an opportunity. It's still very poor and developing ... similar to a lot of countries through Asia. But you only need to see how quickly they are developing and want higher value foods and protein products."
Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry statistics show Cambodia's imports were worth approximately $7 billion in 2009, and of that $3.77 million (2010) from New Zealand. Exports to Cambodia included paper, milk, apples, seafood and beef.
Although the urbanisation in China had created strong demand for protein products, Mr Shortall predicted Cambodia was still 10 years from needing a significant amount of protein, but as "people get wealthy and the economy develops ... they will start introducing more meat."
The latest New Zealand Trade and Enterprise market profile said a number of opportunities existed for Kiwi agribusinesses in Cambodia. The report said breeding technology, veterinary equipment and veterinary supplies were severely lacking. The best opportunity to Kiwi agribusinsses was in partnering with international organisations with programmes in place.