The EU wants to champion "green agriculture" in Southeast Asia. But limited trade relations, regulatory nightmares and distrust could stymie it.
As manufacturing and tourism collapsed in the three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, several Southeast Asian governments realized that they needed to pump more money into their underfunded and underappreciated agriculture sector.
The sector in Cambodia grew by around 6% over each of the past two years compared to 2019, according to government data.
Last year, Vietnam's agriculture exports climbed by 9.3% to a new record value of more than €49 billion ($52.3 billion) according to www.dw.com
Despite the healthy growth in the sector, there are concerns. It is a key contributor to climate change in the region. The World Bank estimates that agriculture accounted for 19% of Vietnam's total greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, the second-highest of any sector.
And export markets remain rather condensed. China, for instance, purchased around half of all agricultural exports from Cambodia, and around a quarter of Thailand's, last year.
In 2022, the EU accounted for just 11% of Vietnam's agricultural exports, according to Vietnamese government data.