Cambodia’s cassava growers have been asked to target Thailand as an export market due to the high demand for the starch-tuber in the neighboring country to produce ethanol, animal feed and flour, while little is done at home to stabilize prices and provide assistance to add value to their unprocessed harvests.
Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak in a meeting recently made a call to cassava growers in the country to boost their exports to Thailand due to the lack of factories in the Kingdom to process harvested cassava into flour and other products.
Soeung Sophary, spokesperson at the Ministry of Commerce, said yesterday Thailand remained one of the biggest markets for the country’s cassava exports.
“Besides Thailand, we also export to other countries like China, but Thailand has been our market for cassava for a long time,” said Ms. Sophary. “There is a high demand for unprocessed cassava from Cambodia in Thailand right now.”
The ministry will discuss with companies in Thailand to keep the buying price, of unprocessed cassava from Cambodia, stable, said Ms. Sophary. “This will certainly help our cassava growers,” she said.
Ms. Sophary said prices were unstable because Thai factories bought the unprocessed cassava directly from farms owned by individuals or families in Cambodia rather than from a collective group or the Cambodia Cassava Development Association.
The low price of cassava has been an issue for farmers in Cambodia due to the free-market cassava trade. There is also a lack of agro processing factories in the Kingdom for cassava growers to add value to their exports in the form of semi-processed products like cassava chips and starch. Because of this, Cambodia’s unprocessed cassava exports are just limited to Thailand and Vietnam.
A lack of systematic planning and assistance to the cassava sector are also constraints for the sustainable production of cassava in Cambodia.
But the commerce ministry’s Ms. Sophary was on the defensive when confronted with these problems currently faced by the country’s cassava growers.
“Our farmers do not understand well about the standard of their products like how to maintain quality to attract buyers to buy their cassava products,” she said.
“This is a dead point for us. If farmers do not plant high quality cassava, how do we encourage others to buy our products,” added Ms. Sophary who also pointed out that that Cambodian cassava farmers did not plant high-yielding varieties for the agro industries.
Cambodia exported 173.387 tons of unprocessed cassava and cassava flour in the first quarter of this year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Thailand is Cambodia’s biggest dried cassava export market, followed by Vietnam and China. Cambodian raw cassava is then processed in these countries for export to Malaysia and the European Union.
Thailand remains the market leader when it comes to the international cassava trade. In 2015, Thailand exported over 7.46 million tons of dried cassava chips to China with an export value of over $1.56 billion. China is also the main destination market for cassava starch exports. Thailand exports around 45 percent of its cassava starch, valued at around $550 million, to China.
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