AUSTRALIA – Australia has launched a programme to support agricultural small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to upgrade food safety standards and quality management systems.

The programme was created through a partnership between the Cambodia-Australia Agriculture Value Chain (CAVAC) and Khmer Enterprise, an entrepreneurship promotion unit within the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

The agreement on cooperation was signed by representatives of the Australian embassy, Khmer Enterprise and CAVAC.

CAVAC and Khmer Enterprise are running a grants scheme to encourage investment in improved manufacturing standards in the agri-food industry.

Cambodia produces an abundance of quality agriculture crops but lacks the facilities and technical capacity to transform these into agro-products thus exports the raw materials to neighboring countries for processing.

The grants can be used to subsidize investments in infrastructure, training and certification that local SMEs need to meet food quality and safety standards.

“The new partnership is to provide funding to small and medium-sized enterprises to help them achieve recognized food safety and quality standards, because we want to see more Cambodian-made products in domestic and international markets,” said the embassy.

The government has recently started to reclassify SMEs into groups such as agriculture, industry, service and trade in order to improve their management and for them to more easily receive incentives from national policies.

Heng Sokkong, secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation, said the classification of SMEs is useful to monitor various tax incentives from the government, in which priority enterprises may also receive additional support from the government to boost demand-based production for market supply.

With COVID-19 seriously impacting other sectors of the economy, the resilience of Cambodia’s agriculture sector has provided much-needed stability.

Additionally, CAVAC has aligned with Khmer Enterprise and the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC), a leading public university, to establish a platform that will aid SMEs in Cambodia to bring new agri-food products to the market through the support of product and market development.

Through this platform, up to eight SMEs in the agri-food sector will receive technical support and up to US$ 20,000 each for help in these areas.

During the first round of grants in 2020, five SMEs received support to produce a range of high-quality products, including fruit juices, milk, cheese, sausage, wine and chips.