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Cassava’s new gateway to global markets

Nick Beresford and Leang Reathmana / Khmer Times Share:
A Cassava production facility in Cambodia. UNDP Cambodia. Ratha Soy

Breakout quote: “While the impact of COVID-19 on Cambodia remains uncertain, breaking ground on National Road 10 provides new hope for farmers to move up the cassava value chain and to strengthen Cambodia’s capacity to recover through inclusive and equitable growth

National Road 10 was once a dream road. The proposed 189 km route would connect the Tonle Sap Lake region to the Southern Coastal Corridor and promised improvements in the flow of goods between regions and onwards to global markets.

On March 9, the dream project became a reality with a groundbreaking ceremony for National Road 10. The road, which will be completed in the next four years, is designed to serve as a strategic gateway to global markets, strengthen the regional economy and improve livelihoods for those living in Cambodia’s western region.

Once built, the new route aims to reinforce Cambodia’s existing agricultural production system and stimulate trade diversification alongside industrial development. National Road 10 will enable agricultural products grown in Cambodia’s interior to be transported to key export gateways, notably Cambodia’s deep seaports in the provinces of Koh Kong and Sihanouk.

This improved connectivity to seaports increases the competitiveness and dynamism of agro-industries.  Additional value can be created and distributed to value chain businesses, especially smallholder farmers, which is of particular importance in the context of rebuilding the economy following the effects of a shock such as the current pandemic. One crop that can benefit from this connectivity and add significant value across its supply chain is cassava.

The proximity of large-scale cassava production facilities to ports paves the way for increased investment in agro-industry and subsequent transformation from resource-based agriculture to a bio-economy value chain. As a result, Cambodia will be better positioned in the future to supply global markets with value-added, eco-friendly products including starch, modified starch and bioethanol.

A cassava farming family in Cambodia. UNDP Cambodia. Ratha Soy

Recognising the potential of the crop to contribute to livelihood improvement and local economic development, UNDP partnered with the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) to work on development of a sustainable cassava sector. Part of this strategy involves designing an integrated value chain where cassava production, processing and export are centralised and located within 200 to 300 kilometres from a port. Through the coordination of UNDP and MoC, cassava associations representing both private sector and individual farmers brought the idea of a direct export route to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT). This route would involve a shortcut road to improve the transport of cassava products to Cambodia’s ports.

Feasibility work on road construction for the route was conducted one year later. As a result of this action by MPWT, the road has become one of the most promising solutions to sustain cassava production and enhance Cambodia’s future competitiveness and attractiveness to private sector and prospective investors. The impact of this gateway to global markets offers opportunities to strengthen cassava as a cash crop for smallholder farmers and to act as a catalyst to build processing industries.

UNDP’s recent study on estimating economic and social returns found that they are substantial, with the economic benefits outstripping costs by a factor of up to three to one over a 10-year period. Taking wider socioeconomic impacts in employment and poverty reduction into account, the modelling revealed that cassava generally out-performs other investments in rice, livestock and tourism sectors.

The UNDP will work with the MoC, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and related ministries as well as the private sector and farmer organisations to transform Cambodia into a home for cassava processing industries and a reliable supplier to the global markets. Breaking ground on National Road 10 provides new hope for farmers through inclusive growth.


Nick Beresford and Leang Reathmana  work for UNDP Cambodia

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