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Mango exports not so sweet

Chhut Bunthoeun / Khmer Times Share:
Fresh mangoes on sale in a market in Phnom Penh. KT/Siv Channa

Mong Reththy Group (MRG), the largest local agribusiness company, and Korean mango exporter Hyundai Agro are discussing ways to seek a solution for mango exports.

Chang-Hoon Lee, managing director of Hyundai Agro, told Khmer Times yesterday that both sides have discussed the current situation of the local mango market.

“We agreed to exchange skills, techniques and know- how to each other. We [Hyundai] will support MRG to follow the guidelines to meet South Korea’s regulations because the Korea market is very strict with chemicals and records, plus worm and disease control when it comes to such fruit exports,” he said.

“So we listened to the company’s problems about its marketing challenges and we both agreed to solve them together,” he added.

He noted local companies may find difficulties meeting market guidelines, but MRG is able to follow Hyundai’s rules. “So we hope, from next season, MRG’s mangoes will be able to be sold in the Korean market.

“We have an open mind to expand Cambodia’s agro products to Korea by cooperating with local partners. So those who want to cooperate with us are welcome,” Lee said.

The company began official exports of the first consignment of Cambodian fresh mangoes to its home country market in January, from between 5 to 20 tonnes every day. During the first four months of the year, 41,885 tonnes of mangoes were sent to Thailand, Vietnam, Russia and Korea, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Mong Rithy, one of Cambodia’s best-known businessmen and head of the MRG, said his mangoes are facing a critical situation, with no market to sell them.

In the light of COVID-19, travelling restrictions are being put in place. Rithy noted that the fruit cannot be exported because there are no airplanes to carry freight.

“As a result, about 600 tonnes of mangoes will be thrown away from our farms because they are damaged after falling from the trees,” he said.

The Ministry of Commerce has recently presented the current situation, saying that despite the COVID-19 outbreak, Cambodian agricultural products still have a market for both export and domestic markets as long as their quality meets demand

It noted that the best quality mangos are currently collected at 500 riels to 550 riels per kilogramme (kg), while packaged mangoes cost 900 riels per kg.

“As long as the fruits are of good quality, do not worry about the market you will sell them at,” the ministry said.

In Chayvan, president of the Kampong Speu Mango Association, told Khmer Times that the mango- growing farmers have been badly affected this year by COVID-19.

He said the yield has increased for exports, but with border restrictions put in place in order to curb the spread of the virus, big losses have been created for farmers because the fruit price has dramatically decreased – the lowest price ever experienced on record. “In the 2019-2020 season, farmers spent lots on cultivating the fruit. When the price was profitable, the amount of yield we produced did not meet the demand because of the weather conditions. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak began just as the high yield and market price plunged. Mangoes currently cost between 100 ($0.025) to 250 riel ($0.074) per kilogramme. This has created a great loss to farmers,” he said.

“Many farmers are facing financial problems and they feel despair over lost revenues. There are some farmers now who have quit planting the fruit and are looking for a new job. They need money because they have debts to pay,” he added.

“If we look at the government policy, Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen is especially paying close attention to the agriculture sector,” said Chayvan. He adding that not all relevant government officials are responding to the current situation.

To solve the problem, Chayvan suggested relevant ministries, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Commerce, Industry and the Rural Development Bank, should create a special committee to agree on a way to get the surplus mangoes to the 30 facilities ready and waiting to process the fruit.

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