Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon met on Monday with visiting US professors W. Ronnie Coffman and Max J. Pfeffer from Cornell University to discuss cooperation in a new project whose purpose is to yield disease-resilient, high yielding cassava.
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The programme is called Next Generation Cassava Breeding Project.
Professor Pfeffer said he has researched extensively the new variety of cassava, and that he has work with the crop in Africa and the US.
“I would like to cooperate with the Ministry of Agriculture in Cambodia and researchers to understand other cassava varieties as well as to study the issues encountered when growing cassava in Cambodia,” the US professor said.
Mr Sakhon said that he will ask the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Royal University of Agriculture in Cambodia (RUA) and the general directorate of agriculture to continue their work with the US university and the visiting scholars.
The Cambodian official also told his guests that his ministry’s goal is to strengthen the agriculture sector in the country by coming up with new growing techniques that can yield disease-resilient, high-yielding crops that generate more revenue for local farmers.
He also told the professors that Cambodia has huge potential in agriculture and that cassava is already the second biggest crop in the country, after rice.
He said there are 670,000 hectares of cassava plantations in Cambodia, able to produce 14 million tonnes of the tuber per year.
CARDI director Ouk Makara, who also joined the meeting, told Khmer Times that the team of US professors use biotechnology to cultivate their cassava variety.
“The next generation cassava yields 10 percent more than our cassava,” he said, adding that, on average, Cambodian cassava yields 24 to 25 tonnes per hectare.
Cassava plantations in the kingdom have increased from 30,000 hectares in 2005 to 684,070 in 2016, with total production amounting to 14.8 million tonnes last year, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture.
The provinces in which the crop is grown are Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Pailin, Kratie, Kampong Thom, Tboung Khmom and Oddar Meanchey.
Cambodia exported 2.3 million tonnes of cassava chips during the first nine months of 2017. Cassava chip exports in 2016 amounted to 2.9 million tonnes, which mostly went to China, Thailand and Vietnam.