Cambodia Economic Sectors

By | May 21, 2021

Agricultural economics

45 percent of the 8.2 million people in employment work in agriculture, and the contribution to gross domestic product is around 25 percent. As is not unusual for Asian monocultures, rice is grown on 3.05 million hectares, which corresponds to 70 percent of the usable area for agriculture, which in most parts of the country is only harvested once a year after the rainy season due to inadequate irrigation systems. According to estimates by the World Food Organization, Cambodia harvested around 10.7 million tons of rice in 2018 (plus 1.7%), of which around 626,000 tons were exported. However, this is only the official number: According to estimates, a total of 1.4 million tons of rice were exported that year, 44 percent of which, however, missed the “books”, which once again underlines Cambodia’s fundamental susceptibility to corruption.

According to, the largest sales market for Cambodian rice is currently still the EU, albeit with a strong downward trend. While European buyers had bought 63 percent of the harvest in 2016, it was 44 percent in 2017 and only 40 percent in 2018. This decline could continue because the EBA trade facilities for rice were suspended in early 2019 and exports to the EU are no longer duty-free. Stricter regulations on the use of tricyclazole in crop protection products could also make it more difficult for Cambodian suppliers to sell rice in Europe in the future. At the same time, China increased its import quota for Cambodian rice from 300,000 (2018) to 400,000 tons (2019) annually – however, the quota was recently only used up to 56 percent.

Compared to its immediate neighbors, Cambodia produces rice much more expensively, which can only be partially offset by the generally excellent quality. The lack of storage capacity, high energy and transport costs and the lack of access to low-interest emergency loans in the event of droughts or floods represent further central political challenges that must be addressed independently of the turbulence on the world market.

The future of Cambodian agriculture is likely to lie less in increasing efficiency and mass and more in the production of high-quality goods. In particular, organic farming and the development of premium brands such as fragrant rice from Battambang, Kampot pepper and Mondulkiri coffee promise a high level of international attractiveness and could boost exports. The downside of this perspective is that the vast majority of Cambodians cannot afford these more expensive products themselves, and that an agricultural economy that is mainly geared towards foreign markets could affect domestic food security.

Cambodia agriculture


In addition to agriculture, clothing and construction, tourism is the fourth mainstay of the Cambodian economy. In 2019, 6.7 million guests (plus 8.7%) came to Cambodia, of which Chinese guests made up the largest proportion with 38%. The growth of the coming years – targets: 2020 7 million, 2025 12 million and 2030 25 million foreign visitors should primarily come from Chinese tourists can be guaranteed, since guests from Europe are only marginally significant at only 15 percent. But the Chinese in particular have usually come to the country with organized budget trips that generate comparatively little turnover. A general goal is to extend the stay of international visitors in the country, which is often limited to Siem Reap and which has been between six and seven days per guest since 2004.

However, the Angkor Archaeological Park has continuously lost its attractiveness in recent years; In 2019 only 2.2 million international tourists came to Siem Reap (minus 14.8%) despite some prestigious awards – as many as last 2016. Instead, many Chinese are drawn to the coastal city of Sihanoukville, which is already known as the “new Macau “Applies to the region. The main problem in this context are the closed business cycles, which are firmly in Chinese hands and from which the locals hardly benefit. In some ways, you can even think of a Chinese enclave on Cambodian territory. In the meantime, the Cambodian government seems to have recognized the problem and has already initiated the first measures with the massive closure of online casinos.

In addition to Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and the capital Phnom Penh, other tourist destinations for guests are primarily the coast in the south, with western guests concentrating on Kep and Kampot. Vietnamese and Thais, on the other hand, mainly visit the numerous casinos, especially in the small border traffic in Poipet on the border with Thailand and Bavet on the border with Vietnam. In any case, the inclusion of the ancient capital Sambor Prei Kuk of the Chenla Empire in the UNESCO World Heritage Site – after Angkor and Preah Vihear, the third Cambodian site should be helpful.

Mining and energy

The extraction of raw materials is still largely underdeveloped in Cambodia. First and foremost, materials are extracted that are required in civil engineering, for example laterite, marble, granite, limestone and gravel. Moreover, from the rivers mined sand is exported illegally to 99%. The Pailin and Ratankkiri provinces are known for their precious stones, mostly rubies and sapphires. It is considered certain that Cambodia still has significant deposits of copper, gold, iron ore, zinc, lead, tin, bauxite and kaolin.

International companies – mostly from China, Korea, Vietnam and Australia – have been mainly engaged in scientific research in recent years and are likely to become the main players in Cambodia’s mining industry in the next few years. Corresponding licenses have so far been granted for around 2.3 million hectares (12.7% of the total area), mostly in sparsely populated regions in the north and east of the country. However, only a small part of them are actively mining. Exploration for oil (estimated at around two billion barrels) and gas (up to 28 billion cubic meters) in the Gulf of Thailand has been delayed for a decade; even by the end of 2020 that should not happen anymore, even theCan mean loss of the concession for the promoter.

In November 2016, Cambodia was one of the 48 developing countries that committed themselves in a joint declaration that from 2050 onwards, all of their energy needs will be generated entirely from renewable sources. Along the way, Cambodia continues to rely on coal-fired power plants; After an order was placed with a Japanese group in February 2017 to build a power plant with a capacity of 150 megawatts in Sihanoukville, further project plans for Sihanoukville, Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey were announced in 2019. Another focus to meet the enormous energy demand is in the hydropower, which in northern Cambodia through the Lower Sesan II dam with aTotal output of 400 megawatts is used. Cambodia aims to produce a total of 11.1 terawatt hours of electricity by 2022. This is one of the reasons why electricity imports continue to decline and in 2015 amounted to just 1.54 billion kilowatt hours (24.9% of total consumption).

Until the ambitious goals are achieved (in 2014 Prime Minister Hun Sen set the ambitious goal of wanting to supply all villages with electricity by 2020 and ten years later 70 percent of all households), there is still a lot to be done: in addition to insufficient production capacities and decentralized ones Networks still have numerous other challenges to be solved. Hydropower dominates by far among the regenerative energy sources. In spite of the excellent climatic conditions, solar energy is hardly used at all, primarily due to the unwillingness of the state monopoly Electricité du Cambodge to feed privately generated solar power into the grid at reasonable prices.