The European Union is planning to increase its imports of agricultural produce from Cambodia under its "Everything But Arms" trade initiative, an EU official said on Friday.
Cambodia, one of Asia's poorest countries, had "huge potential" to boost its exports and should take advantage of the special concessions offered by the EU, said Rafael Dochao Moreno, Charge d' Affaire of the EU Delegation to Cambodia.
The "Everything But Arms" trade initiative allows tariff-free imports of any product except weapons from poor countries.
"What we want to see is Cambodia increasing exports, especially in the agro business. There is huge potential for Cambodia to export to the EU," he told a news conference.
Cambodia's exports to the EU last year totaled $700 million, while its imports from European countries were worth about 200 million, Dochao Moreno said.
Cambodia is seeking to modernise and expand its agricultural sector, its biggest currency earner ahead of tourism and garments, with recent moves to boost production of sugar and rice, mainly for export.
Cambodia recently revived its sugar industry after a halt of almost 40 years, mainly due to civil war, and plans to produce at least 160,000 tonnes a year by 2013, mostly for export to EU markets.
It is forecast to produce 700,000 tonnes of unmilled rice this year and aims to boost that figure with new investment, mainly from China, in new irrigation systems.
Dochao Moreno said Cambodia should diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on garment manufacturing.
Cambodia's garment industry shed almost 30,000 jobs in 2009 after a drop in sales to the United States and Europe. It could struggle this year, industry officials say.
The decline has caused a ripple effect in the countryside, where many impoverished rural families rely on remittances from the salaries of urban-based garment workers.
Cambodia exported garments, textiles and shoes to the value of $2.3 billion last year, down from $2.9 billion in 2008. The garment sector accounts for about 16 percent of gross domestic product.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 20 Mart 2010, 12:26