via CAAI News Media
Tue Feb 9, 2010
By Prak Chan Thul
PHNOM PENH, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Cambodia is in talks to build the country's biggest sugar plant, worth $100 million, as part of a joint venture with a French company that would help revive an industry that collapsed during the country's lengthy civil war.
The Mong Reththy Group plans to build the country's second sugar plant since the 1970s and hopes to produce 80,000 tonnes of annually within three years for export to European markets, the company's president told Reuters on Tuesday.
The project aims to take advantage of the European Union's "Everything But Arms" trade initiative, which allows tariff-free imports of any product except weapons from poor countries.
Mong Reththy, a Cambodian tycoon and senator, said his company was still in talks on the proposed joint venture with the French company, which he would not name until a deal was struck.
Cambodian companies lacked sufficient funds to go it alone and remained dependent on foreign investment, he said, adding now was a good time to start because of the high price of sugar cane.
"It's impossible to come up with $100 million. Cambodians can't do it alone, there needs to a partnership with foreigners," Mong Reththy told Reuters when discussing the plant, to be built in the northern province of Stung Treng.
The group's deputy director, Mok Chansothea, said clearance of the 10,000 hectare (24,710 acre) site, around 500 km (310 miles) north of the capital, Phnom Penh, would begin on Feb. 22 and planting would start in June.
Last month Cambodia, a net importer of sugar, launched a sugar plant in the southern province of Koh Kong, the first sugar facility to operate in 40 years.
The plant, worth $90.6 million, is a joint venture between Cambodia's Koh Kong Sugar Industry Company Limited, Thailand's Khon Kaen Sugar KSL.BK and Taiwan's Vewong Corp, according to local media.
The two projects would produce a combined 160,000 tonnes of sugar for export, Mong Reththy said.
That is significantly less than Thailand, the world's second-biggest exporter with over 5 million tonnes a year, but the new plants are a sign of the efforts being made by the impoverished country to boost exports and reduce its reliance on neighbouring countries. (Editing by Martin Petty)