>Qatar to invest US$200 million in agriculture

>Qatari prime minister visited Cambodia on 1st April and signed a range of agreements with Cambodia.

Soun Sophalmony
The Mekong Times

The State of Qatar has officially declared its intention to invest in Cambodia’s agricultural sector, including US$200 million in rice farmland in Svay Rieng province and a loan for an irrigation system using the Vaiko River. “Cambodia and Qatar are strengthening their cooperation over agricultural investment in Cambodia,” said Hor Namhong, minister of foreign affairs, at yesterday’s press conference at the ministry. The Qatari government has submitted six agriculture-related documents for signature and a Qatari delegation plans to visit Cambodia Jun 9-12 to discuss technical and commercial collaboration with Cambodia and to conduct further feasibility studies, said the minister.

“Cambodia plans to borrow money from Qatar to construct a canal from Vaiko River, which will link up the three provinces of Svay Rieng, Prey Veng and Kompong Cham,” said Hor Namhong. “The canal will be able to irrigate over 300,000 hectares of land,” he said, adding that Qatar will initially invest around US$200 million in 10,000 hectares of land in Svay Rieng province.

“Firstly, Cambodia is making a study of the canal [to be] dug from Vaiko River – an important water source for rice irrigation,” said Chan Sarun, minister of agriculture, adding that the canal will provide water for the Svay Rieng land which Qatar will invest in. “We will encourage people to start planting rice early, after the study, and they will be able to plant two to three crops a year.”

Cheang Orm, Svay Rieng provincial governor, although as yet unaware of the Qatari investment project, welcomed the project, which he said would help improve living standards in his province.

“This investment could help poor people to increase their rice output,” he said. “Our province already has the [necessary] infrastructure. We have provincial and district agricultural departments, commune and village trainer officers, agricultural information networks and agronomists.”

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), said, if the investment focuses on upgrading farmers’ capacity in rice production, increasing their incomes, supplying markets and improving agricultural efficiency, then it would be “a good thing.” Apart from the investment project, the Cambodian and Qatari governments also reached agreements on direct flights from Qatar to Cambodia and also agreed to cooperate on oil and gas exploration. The two governments also announced the beginning of diplomatic relations from Apr 1 this year.
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