Expanding Agricultural Market Access through Improved Sanitary and Phytosanitary Practices in Cambodia
At the crossroads of the Mekong Delta and the Gulf coast of Thailand lies Cambodia’s vast agricultural fields, brimming with a variety of crops including many highly sought-after products such as mangos and cashews. However, Cambodia’s agricultural potential remains largely untapped, hampered by limited market access due to product quality and food safety standards. The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) recently prioritized exports to drive agriculture-led economic growth, and significant investment is needed to reach full potential.
The USAID Mission in Cambodia and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are partnering to provide science-based education and technical support to strengthen the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) regulatory systems in Cambodia, through initial focus within mango and cashew value chains.
In early 2019, the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and implementing partner Texas A&M University conducted a series of plant health workshops in Cambodia to identify SPS related issues within these value chains and areas for capacity building. These issues included the lack of trained cashew and mango extension agents and gaps in domestic laboratory capacity to identify plant pests. The partners used modules originally developed for a project focused on strengthening the capacity of agriculture and trade officials in Pakistan to design and implement the mango and cashew trainings.
The workshops focused on the benefits and methodology for adopting the international SPS standards championed by the WTO and US. They incorporated a practical, hands-on method of training complemented by self-paced online distance learning modules. Online modules help to introduce topics and test participants’ competencies before and after their in-person workshop participation. Between April 2019 and March 2020, the program sponsored five in-country workshops in Cambodia, focusing on the process for U.S. market access, pest risk analysis, approved phytosanitary treatments, pest surveillance, and pest identification for agricultural products. Subject-matter experts from USDA’s APHIS, Plant Protection and Quarantine Division curated the workshops attended by the employees of Cambodia’s National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO), in-country private mango and cashew exporters, and local agricultural university staff. These workshops not only provided the practical and field experience needed to create science-based SPS regulatory policy but also an opportunity to connect public and private stakeholders to resources and communication channels with U.S. subject-matter experts.
Following these workshops further training in SPS certification and Pest Free Zones was requested by the NPPO, and new Cambodian mango varieties were able to achieve market access in South Korea, where they had previously been denied due to local exporters’ inability to meet South Korea’s international science-based SPS standards for importation. This success shows real progress in meeting global SPS standards and becoming a better trading partner.
In Cambodia, alignment with international SPS standards and implementation of these standards will decrease undue barriers to international agricultural trade, protect domestic and international crops, and open up new markets for products from U.S. farmers.