Innovation to compete: Food Innovation and Agro-processing in Northwestern Provinces in Cambodia

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food innovation

The German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) is implementing the Improved Competitiveness of National Enterprise (ICONE) Program on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), with the Council for Development of Cambodia (CDC) as the lead implementing partner.

The program’s goal is to enhance the competitiveness of the Cambodian economy in complex and dynamic markets by fostering private sector development.

The food processing industry plays a crucial role in the Cambodian economy, contributing significantly to income generation and employment while supporting steady economic development. This sector remains a vital contributor to the country’s GDP, accounting for 22.4% and employing 32% of the labor force. Despite rapid growth, the industry faces challenges that hinder its ability to compete with imported products and expand internationally. In the fast-paced world today, innovation has become a key driver for businesses to maintain competitiveness, especially in the food industry, where consumers constantly seek new and exciting products.

food innovation

Food innovation, combined with agro-processing, has emerged as a powerful tool for companies to meet evolving consumer demands. Food innovation encompasses the creation and development of new food products, processes, and technologies. The ICONE program aims to support food and agro-processors in their development through enhanced product research and development, integration of technology and digital solutions, and improved access to broader markets.

To foster innovation in the food and agro-processing sector, the ICONE project collaborates with Eatable Adventure, one of the world’s leading food-tech companies. Together, they organized a workshop on “Innovation for Competition: Food Innovation and Agro-Processing in the Northwestern Provinces of Cambodia” on September 18, 2023, at Borei Angkor Resort & Spa Hotel in Siem Reap province. The workshop aimed to present key findings and address open challenges in this primary sector.

The report reveals that despite sustained economic growth, the agri-food sector has not reached its full potential, primarily focusing on the domestic market and trading products with limited added value. The collaborative effort between GIZ and Eatable Adventures also seeks to identify business opportunities in the northwest provinces of Cambodia, aiming to strengthen the agri-food processing industry and create a more resilient ecosystem. The focus is on high-value crops highly demanded in international markets.

food innovation

Main challenges identified in the sector include improving the current agricultural production environment, enhancing commercial and business conditions, such as market access, financial tools, and protection, and introducing high-value-added products resulting from advanced food processing or specialization in high-value crops. Strengthening the system requires efforts throughout the entire value chain, involving various stakeholders, from research centers and universities to cooperatives and venture capitalists.

Despite challenges, the sector benefits from favorable climate conditions for crops, a young population, rapid digital transformation, institutional commitment to sector development, and access to significant markets like ASEAN, India, China, and the EU. Collaboration among stakeholders is essential to fostering innovation and ensuring a prosperous future for the food and agro-processing sector.