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Thailand seeks formation of cassava bloc

May Kunmakara / Khmer Times Share:
A man stands near sacks of dried cassava in the outskirts of Phnom Penh. KT/Mai VireaK

Thailand wants to form a coalition with Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, all cassava-producing nations, to guarantee a stable price for the commodity and avoid future price wars, according to an article published yesterday in the Bangkok Post.

The resulting bloc would be the largest cassava association in the world, responsible for 80 percent of the world’s output.

According to the Bangkok Post, Adul Chotinisakorn, director-general of Thailand’s Foreign Trade Department, said that Thailand will use the upcoming World Tapioca Conference as an opportunity to propose the Cassava block to its fellow Asean member states.

The World Tapioca Conference, scheduled for June 27-28 in Bangkok, aims to help exporters expand to new markets such as Turkey, India and New Zealand, in a bid to reduce their heavy reliance on China.

This year’s edition of the conference is expected to attract more than 1,000 international producers, exporters and importers of tapioca, as well as representatives from governmental and international agencies, from China, Asean, South Korea, Japan, India, Taiwan and the European Union. Overall industry prospects, global production and trade will be discussed.

Tapioca, a staple food for millions of people mostly in tropical countries, is a starch extracted from cassava root.

Hean Vanhan, director of Cambodia’s General Directorate of Agriculture, told Khmer Times that he has not been contacted by Thailand yet with regards to forming the speculated alliance, but said creating such an association would help stabilise prices of the commodity and improve the lives of farmers.

“It is a good idea and I will support it if Thailand proposes it,” he said.

Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of tapioca products, controlling more than 50 percent of the global market.

In early March, Veng Sakhon, the Cambodian Minister of Agriculture, met with Ladawan Wongsriwong, an adviser to Thailand on domestic and international socio-economic matters, and proposed the creation of a government-private sector working group involving both nations to deal with agricultural trade issues and promote Cambodian exports of raw cassava to Thailand.

Meanwhile, the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce has nearly finished its national strategy on cassava which aims to boost production and exports of the commodity.

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 Khmum and Oddar Meanchey.

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