– Your Venerable Monks,
– Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
– Dear Workers and Compatriots!
Today, I have a great pleasure to join you once again and to address government officials, employers and workers that are present here at the Opening Ceremony of Latex Harvesting and the inauguration of latex processing Plan at Tum Ring Rubber Plantation, Sandan district, Kampong Thom province. I would recall that in August 2001, my wife and I came to inaugurate the Hun Sen Tum Ring Primary School and the Rubber Plantation. Today, I am proud to tap the latex from the rubber trees that were planted 7 years ago by me and my wife. And now, we are going to extract latex and put for processing in the plant that we are going to inaugurate shortly.
Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the Government and on my own behalf, I would like to congratulate Board of Directors, local authorities, managements of the Chub Rubber Plantation and workers, who exerted their utmost efforts with willingness and responsibilities to build and promote the development of the Tum Ring Rubber Plantation, regardless of difficulties. Through this accomplishment, it obviously reflects the realization of my recommendations introduced in 2001, which was to transform the Tum Ring commune in Sandan district of Kampong Thom province into an another new rubber planting and processing region in the Kingdom of Cambodia that contributed to a notable change of Tum Ring commune.
Furthermore, I would like to see the Tum Ring being a model commune for exporting coagulated rubber; especially transforming from a backward rural area into a modern agro-industrial area where livelihoods are gradually improving in this remote area. Today, I witness the fruitful outcomes that truly benefit our people owing to the efforts from the expansion of the Chub Rubber Plantation. This can be considered as an evidence of the rubber expansion in the Tum Ring Rubber Plantation, Sandan District, Kampong Thom province and is inline with the spirit of the Rectangular Strategies of the Royal Government for growth, employment, equity and efficiency in Cambodia.
In Cambodia, rubber has a great benefit to the economy, society and the environment. According to rubber price forecasting, it is favorable in the medium and long term due to the increased demand for automobile manufacturing and rising trend of oil price. Cambodia will benefit from this condition – given the favorable natural endowment in terms of land fertility, climate and low level of damages from insects. Therefore, investment cost in rubber plantation is low and in comparison to other competing countries, it is able to provide high yield and return. In this context, due to the low cost of investment and operation, family-based rubber plantation could make net revenue around US$2,000 per hectare. It shows that family-based rubber plantation offers higher return than traditional food crops since international rubber price is high. Due to high and stable flow of income for the whole year, investment in rubber plantation provides high return on equity.
Therefore, rubber plantation, especially family-based one has become an effective instrument to combat rural poverty. Furthermore, family-based rubber, compare to agro-industrial rubber plantation, is less sensitive to price fluctuation as it fundamentally relies on family labor, rather than external workforces. With regards to environment, rubber trees have positive impact as they are contributing to the Greenhouse Gases reduction and it is a practical respond to the land conservation of the degraded forest areas.
Over the recent years, the improvement of rubber price along with the favorable political environment and potentials; we hope that at the current pace rubber plantation will reach its maximum potential in the next 10 years. According to the report of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the rubber plantation increased by 80,000 hectares or 17% compare to the last year which largely dominated by family-based rubber plantation. However, the size of rubber planting area is insignificant compared to its total potential areas, especially on red basal soil area which cover more than 300,000 hectares in Cambodia.
Furthermore, according the research on land soil and rubber varieties conducted by the General Directorate of Rubber and Rubber Research Institute of Cambodia, rubber tree can be planted on grey and sandy soil that covers several hundred thousands of hectares in Cambodia. This shows that Cambodia has a great potential for rubber planting and production to supply to the international market. Presently, Cambodia’s total export of rubber stands at approximately 40,000 metric tons per annum or 0.46% of the total world production. In this sense, if smallholders’ rubber planting continues at its current pace for the next 10 years, Cambodia’s total rubber production will increase four fold, and in combination with the production of the currently non-harvested area, family-based rubber production will overtake state-owned rubber enterprises by 2015.
In general, Cambodia’s rubber sector has been constantly improved. The private sector strongly emerges in the area of processing and exports, as well as effective improvement in commercial and processing systems. In spite of current improvements, the price of exported rubber sold by domestic producers remain low compare to other sub-regional countries and Cambodian rubber is selling at lower price compare to international price. These are the results of poor trade cooperation, inadequate acknowledgement in the market as well as quality problem. These weaknesses are the major challenges that must be addressed immediately by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and other related institutions, especially during the high demand of rubber in the world and continuous increase in rubber prices, in order to enable our rubber sector to be competitive for the development of our national economy. Moreover, there are many other issues that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; General Directorate of Rubber and other related bodies must focus and to exert all necessary efforts to address it, in particular in long term.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to raise following recommendations to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and other related institutions to be jointly addressed and for ensuring benefits to our national economy:
Firstly – in rubber industry so far, we have only fulfilled upstream work, meaning that we have implemented rubber planting, nurturing, harvesting, processing into coagulated rubber and finally exporting almost all rubber product overseas. Unlike other neighboring countries, we have not considered any downstream business, namely the use of coagulated rubber for manufacturing final rubber-based products for domestic consumption and exports.
Secondly – we must formulate a policy for rubber sector with a clear long-term vision, strategic rationalization and work plan that should respond to the first point.
Thirdly – we have to study in details and define the potential land for rubber plantation in order to facilitate the development of rubber and other crops, especially we have to do the inventory of the severely degraded forest areas, which could actually be turned into rubber plantation. In this regards, I put forward already a number of recommendations during the recent stock-taking ceremony of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery. However, I would like to reconfirm that all forms of deforestation and illegal forest exploitation by taking the development of the rubber plantation as an excuse will not be allowed, yet those involved will be punished according to the law.
Fourthly – in the context of technology transfer we need to seek partnership with other rubber producing countries in the world with a spirit of reciprocal respect and benefit. In this sense, the technology transfer is a necessity to produce the quality rubber and ensure the quantity to supply the bigger markets. Since, Cambodia is still one of the least developed countries we do need the support for the rubber production, in particular, the various forms of technology transfer, including foreign direct investment, purchasing, training and other technical support. The technology transfer is beneficial for the entire region. Along with this, the strengthening of institution in the rubber sector needs to consider base on legal framework and clear roles and responsibilities. The Cambodia Rubber Development Association needs to be further improved to ensure the strong capability and internationally recognized quality of the Cambodian rubber. In the mean time, we have to develop the rubber tree seedling nursery, training of nursery workers in order to ensure the quality of the trees planted as well as promoting the family-based rubber plantation around processing factory.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to remind all our countrymen that the research conducted by the Ministry of Meteorology and Water Resources showed that the overall weather condition in Cambodia is expected to have more rains at the end of this coming dry season. The rain level is above the average in the early of raining season and is well distributed during the middle of the season. Yet, the level at the end of the raining season is about the average. According to the forecast, the rainy season will begin in the early May and end in late October of 2008. Based on the forecast, there might be around 26 to 30 storms in the Pacific Ocean, which is about annual average. I would like to appeal to all farmers all over the country to be ready with rice and other crops seed, natural fertilizers, draught animals and labor forces to cultivate on time, especially, you should use the short-maturity rice seed during the beginning of the season and also the medium maturity rice during this year. Moreover, our farmers should consider changing from self-subsistent farming to market oriented farming, which can actually help enhance the living standard of our people as well as increasing our agriculture production contributing to the development of Cambodia as a whole.
Even though the rubber contributes little to the national economy, it will increase significantly when the rubber plantation will expand to its maximum level and when the state-owned, private and family-owned rubber plantations are at harvest maturity. In this sense, we hope that the development of rubber would be beneficial to our national economy; especially the development of family-owned rubber can be a potential for rural development as this model of rubber development will bring about the direct opportunity for rural poor. Furthermore, it can maintain the land cover and help to release the heat due to the climate change. I strongly believe that the Tum Ring rubber plantation in Sandan district of Kampong Tom province is truly becoming a key actor in speeding the pace of development in this far-flung area as well as improving the image and living standard of the people in this area.
Before coming to an end, I would like, once again, to appreciate and highly evaluate the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, General Directorate of the Rubber Plantation and the Board of Directors of Chub Rubber Plantation, who have exerted their utmost to fulfill the work conforming to my advice to turn this area to be both a state and family owned rubber plantation. I would also like to appreciate various relevant organizations, all level of local authorities as well as all units of armed forces, who have had good cooperation in order to actively participate with the Royal Government in implementing its effective policies for poverty reduction.
At the end, with the inauguration of the coagulated rubber processing factory and the latex harvesting in the Tum Ring rubber plantation in Sandan district of Kampong Tom province, I would like to wish Your Venerable Monks, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen and Workers with the Five gems of Buddhist blessing: longevity, nobility, health, strength and wisdom.