Cambodian farmers and agri-business firms are being encouraged to use a state-run laboratory to analyze the quality and safety of their produce in a bid to build trust with consumers.
A recent decree by the agriculture minister, Veng Sakhon, stated that the new control measures were intended to protect public health and promote better export-quality goods.
The decree will create new quality standards on food and other agricultural produce.
Sar Mora, president of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation, welcomed the move, saying higher quality standards would be a benefit to the entire sector.
The union leader added that the laboratory should be transparent in its analysis and hoped that corruption would not influence its processing of cases.
“I think it’s a good news if there is no corruption issue or… cronyism,” he said.
“It’s a chance to expand the production of producers, meaning that they will be aware that they have an obligation to produce with standards,” he added.
But he questioned whether there would be enough highly qualified staff to properly carry out the needed functions of the laboratory.
“This is another separate challenging issue that we are not aware [of the answer to] because it’s new for us. So, it’s hard to say about the capacity of our officials. We don’t know how good they are,” he said.
The laboratory will implement food standards from the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, and Codex Alimentarius Commission, according to officials.
It will also facilitate and promote food safety and offer training and research services, as well as retain the power to issue warnings, license suspensions and confiscations of produce if they are found to fall outside of the guidelines.
Over the past several years, poor food standards have been high on the agenda for the Cambodian government, as several scandals involving tainted food products have garnered headlines, prompting Prime Minister Hun Sen to call for a boycott of foreign-grown vegetables tainted with excessive levels of pesticides and other chemicals.
Hean Vanhorn, director general of the agriculture department, declined to comment on the capacity of officials to implement the safety standards.