Cambodia yesterday began the process of sending its first shipment of bananas to the Chinese market, after five local companies were greenlighted by the Chinese government last month.
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During a ceremony attended by Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon, 100 tonnes of bananas were stored at a warehouse in Phnom Penh, ready to the shipped to the Chinese market.
No official date has been given as to when the shipment will take place.
The bananas belong to all five companies that were granted permission to ship the fruit by the Chinese government – Longmate Agriculture, Long Sreng Hua Jian Agriculture Development, Green Island Agriculture Development, Sovann Reachsey, and Grand Land Agriculture Development.
Banana will become only one of a handful products Cambodian companies export to the Chinese market. Other include milled rice, dried cassava and processed rubber.
The movement follows the signing of a protocol on the exportation of bananas in August between China and Cambodia, an agreement that effectively allows Cambodia to ship the fruit to China.
Minister Sakhon said at yesterday’s ceremony the bananas will be shipped from Sihanoukville Autonomous Port directly to Shanghai.
Cambodian yellow bananas will sell very well overseas, helping the country expand its exports, the minister said.
“Exporting bananas to China will represent a significant contribution to the development of the agriculture sector, and to national economic growth.”
Mr Sakhon said Cambodia is expected to ship 130,000 tonnes of bananas to the Chinese market this year.
Phae Hok Chhoun, president of Longmate Agriculture, said his company is planting bananas on 400 hectares of land in Kampot province. He said his company expects to send 22,000 tonnes of fresh bananas to China in 2019, expanding to 33,000 tonnes a year by 2020.
He said Longmate now employs more than 800 workers, and that it will hire an additional 1,500 this year and the next.
Li An, economic and commercial counselor at the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh, said the Chinese market absorbs 4 million tonnes of bananas every year.
He said that, given its favourable climate and geography, Cambodia is an attractive destination for Chinese investors eying for opportunities in the sector.
Minister Sakhon urged Chinese investors to consider the local banana sector and said that other products with great potential include dragon fruit, mango, longan and bird nests.
Mr Sakhon noted that Cambodia exported 350,000 tonnes of agricultural products in 2018, adding that this year the figure could rise to 500,000 tonnes.
Cambodia exported 38,000 tonnes of bananas during the first four months of the year, he added.