|Written by KAY KIMSONG AND GEORGE MCLEOD|
|Monday, 23 February 2009|
30-strong group of politicians and businessmen from Israel scheduled to invest in Cambodian agriculture; telecoms officials also due to travel
AN Israeli delegation is set to visit Cambodia on March 16, hoping to forge agreements in agriculture and telecommunications, said the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce and the Israeli embassy in Bangkok.
The move is part of an Israeli effort announced last year to expand economic and political ties with Cambodia.
Nguon Meng Tech, director general of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, told the Post that 30 Israeli delegates from the government and private sector would meet up to 40 Cambodian business leaders.
"We should know that Israel is a land of sand, but it has become an agricultural leader because of their expertise," said Nguon Meng Tech.
Tzahi Selzer, the Israeli economic and trade attache in Bangkok, said that 15 telecoms companies, as well as agriculture businesses, would be part of the delegation. Also present would be Israel's minister of telecommunications and minister of agriculture, along with possibly one other high-ranking official.
More details of the visit are expected this week.
Israel is a land of sand, but it has become an agricultural leader.
"Israel is known as a world leader in agriculture," said Nguon Meng Tech, "I think they are also looking for farmland to grow rice and vegetables," he said. He added that there has been talk of leasing agricultural land to the Israelis and building a hotel, but no details have been disclosed yet.
Israel was ranked the fourth-largest foreign investor in Cambodia last year in terms of value of projects approved, with 2.75 percent of total investment, or US$300 million, according to Cambodian Investment Board figures.
The sole Israeli project was by Queenco Tourism International, which built a five-star hotel in Sihanoukville. Commerce Ministry data says that Cambodia imported $353,107 in goods from Israel and exported $138,531 in 2007.
Mong Reththy, president of Mong Reththy Group, which is involved in agricultural exports, said his company welcomes Israeli investors for any type of agriculture.
"I heard that Israel wants to buy rice from us, so I started a 10-hectare pilot project in Strung Treng province, near the Laotian border," he said, adding that Cambodia's agricultural potential, coupled with Israel's expertise and capital, make the countries a good match.
He said he would also be urging the Israelis to buy palm oil as prices had fallen from $1,200 to $500 per tonne.
The director of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, Yang Saing Koma, welcomed the possibility of Israeli investment, but urged new investors to respect small farmers' land titles. "I hope that government won't only concentrate on large-scale farming for export, but will support domestic supply too," he said.
Thorn Virak, deputy director general for the Foreign Trade Department, said bilateral trade with Israel is comparatively small, but that Cambodia could export rice to Israel.
Middle Eastern countries have increased ties with Phnom Penh over the past two years, with Kuwait and the United Emirates sending high-level delegations to Cambodia.