Rice is central to what it means to be a Cambodian. I have often heard it said that "It's not a meal, unless you have rice." Even question, "Have you eaten?" directly translates to, "Do you eat rice?"
Agricultural investment is vital to Cambodia, particularly in areas of technology for the small farmers, since farming is the backbone of this country. Not only that, but young people need to know that they can and should be studying agriculture in order to further improve upon its agricultural productivity.
PHNOM PENH, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Cambodia will spend $310 million of mostly Chinese money on improving irrigation systems to boost rice exports over the next two years, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday.
Cambodia, which is forecast to export as much as 700,000 tonnes of unmilled rice this year, had the potential to produce bigger yields, but still needed more funding to upgrade its irrigation systems, Hun Sen said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cambodia exported 500,000 tonnes of rice in 2008, a figure dwarfed by neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam, the world's top two exporters of the grain.
"Cambodia has the ability to export much more unmilled rice than this, many times more," Hun Sen said during the inauguration of a new irrigation system near the capital, Phnom Penh.
"Cambodia's ability to export is high, so we must invest in this sector," he said, adding that he hoped to increase yields from 2.5 tonnes to 4 tonnes per hectare.
In December, Cambodia signed 14 deals worth an estimated $850 million with China, the country's biggest source of foreign investment.
That included $240 million for irrigation projects, but Hun Sen said even more was needed from its ally, which has pumped more than $4.3 billion into the impoverished nation.
"I would like to send a message (to China). Cambodia doesn't just need the $240 million, Cambodia needs more than this," he said.