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Cambodia Food Market Analysis

18 Oct 2021 | Cambodia

The Cambodia food market has experienced tremendous growth since 2007. Initially, the country went from experiencing a significant number of its citizens living below the poverty line and among the 29 nations deemed most vulnerable to food insecurity to adopting the trend of ready-to-eat cooked foods and frozen products. Today, Cambodia's food market industry displays higher demand for frozen food than fresh and prepared food, requiring industry players to enhance their quality of retailers, storage, and distribution infrastructure.

The rise of packaged and frozen food

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The shift to western culture of frozen food consumption happens due to the increasing exposure of international tourism to Cambodia. Since 2010, the tourists' number entering Cambodia doubled from 250.000 to over 800.000, with a slight decrease in 2020 due to the mobility restrictions as preventive measures containing the COVID-19 pandemic. The country's rising tourism industry posed a demand for more diverse food categories, tweaking Cambodia's agriculture industry to cater to the growing needs for different tastebuds.

Numerous institutions have emphasized food business growth in Cambodia. For example, the Institute of Standards of Cambodia (ISC), alongside the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has collaborated in 2016 to increase the export level of the four most dominant seafood products, implementing international standards for all the merchandise to attract more export demands. The standardized measures for export goods coming out of Cambodia have helped the country gain credibility for its domestic goods, bringing Cambodia's food industry globally.

The rise of packaged and frozen food

Today, the market share of food and beverage in Cambodia is dominated by international players, such as Thailand's giant Food and Beverage (FnB) holding, Thai Beverage, and Unilever. Albeit the local players' contribution to the industry is still in its nascent stage, the frozen food market, specifically, grows at a steady pace. As a result, the country still fulfills most of the packaged and frozen goods demand through imports due to the disparate number of importers compared to producers.

As the middle class grew vastly, Cambodia forecasted the number of producers and standardized domestic agriculture players to change the market eventually. The rise of the food market in recent years has also spark digitalization and development for agricultural products, specifically rice, taking two-thirds of the total calorie intake of Cambodians in a year. Previously, several international NGOs and development partners have emphasized the importance of improving farming practices by monitoring seed quality and fertilizer application. However, as the country experiences a technological era by providing the internet to rural places, the agricultural industry has gradually adopted a digital way to record and track operational activities.

The government has also integrated nine different food markets across Cambodia to control fluctuations from externalities and seasonal shocks. Yet, the prices of raw food materials in Cambodia remain volatile in wet seasons from supply bottlenecks.

While holding massive potential in the agricultural food market, Cambodia's food market growth relies heavily on packaged and frozen products traffic. The reason being Cambodia has yet to leverage its agricultural operations, leading domestic players to remain to their traditional farming practices. Similarly, the packaged and frozen food products market is also heavily dominated by foreign players, requiring local and smaller players in the industry to compete in a highly fragmented sector.

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