With coffee shops mushrooming around the country, particularly in Phnom Penh, government officials say demand for coffee beans in the kingdom is growing markedly, noting that local production is insufficient to supply the market and that the commodity is increasingly imported.
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Song Kheang, director of Mondulkiri’s agricultural department, said demand for coffee beans in the country is growing fast as cafes in the capital and around the country multiply, including domestic, regional and international chains.
With 140 hectares of coffee bean plantations, Mondulkiri province remains the largest producer in the kingdom. Every harvest produces up to 2.5 tonnes of the commodity, which is sold at $2.5 per kilogram.
“Almost all local production is used to supply the local markets because traders buy directly from farmers,” Mr Kheang explained.
“Because demand for coffee is high due to the increasing number of coffee shops, particularly in Phnom Penh, farmers are interested in expanding their plantations.
“I expect that the land area used for coffee bean cultivation will expand in the future.”
Nun Dima, general manager of Coffee MK Mondulkiri Co Ltd, who supplies coffee to local supermarkets and cafes, said he doesn’t feel threatened by rising coffee imports.
“Demand is growing fast and local production is not enough. There is room for imported coffee,” Mr. Dima said.
“It’s good that customers can choose. Some prefer foreign coffee while some like the local varieties. I think what they really care about is quality.”
According to Mr Dima, one ton of instant coffee sells for about $4,000.
“Based on current demand, I believe plantations will expand,” he said.
Pun Narith, sales supervisor at Mister Cup, a business in Phnom Penh that specialises on plastic cup printing services for coffee shops and restaurants, echoed the same sentiment.
“Orders of plastic cups for restaurants and small coffee shops, especially for take away, have increased, which means the coffee shop sector is expanding,” he said.
According to a recent report in Vietnamese media, every year Cambodia exports several thousand tonnes of instant coffee sachets to Vietnam.
Hean Vanhan, director-general of the general directorate of agriculture, said the government is not keeping track of this trade because it is largely informal.
“We don’t have data on this trade because farmers are planting near the border and selling directly to Vietnamese traders,” Mr Vanhan said.
Mr Dima said that farmers in financial need are selling the coffee to Vietnamese traders to make a quick buck, adding that this sort of trade has been taking place for a long time.
Besides Mondulkiri province, coffee plantations in Cambodia are also found in Ratanakkiri and Palin, but they are generally smaller, according to Mr Kheang, who also pointed out that most farms are fully owned by the farmers, and only a few belong to investors.
Last year, the kingdom sent 2.6 tonnes of coffee beans to outside markets, half the amount exported a year earlier, when exports equaled five tonnes, according to official data from the ministry.