China offers cassava hope

Chea Vannak / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Cassava being harvested at the Thai-Cambodian border in Pailin province. KT/Sonny Inbaraj Krishnan KT/Sonny Inbaraj Krishnan

Cambodia has marked its first Cassava Day with expectations of greater exports to China, one of the world’s big markets for the tuberous root.
Speaking at the celebration in Battambang province on Monday, Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak said the government is speeding up exports of cassava products to China after the countries reached general specialized preference (GSP) and sanitary and phyto-sanitary agreements.
Thailand and Vietnam are currently the main markets for cassava exports, he said.
Exports to China will add more markets for cassava at competitive prices.
Cambodia’s cassava products are already in China’s markets but in small amounts which traders export directly and indirectly, said Hean Vanhan, director-general of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ general directorate of agriculture.
“Although we have agreements with China on exporting cassava, the amount of exports is still not high due to the cost of transport,” Mr. Vanhan said.
Exports of cassava products are mainly to Thailand and Vietnam, which have better transport systems than Cambodia, before being sent to China.
On the topic of price stability, Mr. Vanhan said the government does not have much money to subsidize the sector so the price depends on export market rates.
Hun Lyhoeun, director of Drycorpkh Cambodia, a cassava trading company in Battambang province, said recently that the government should intervene to stabilize prices during periods of market fluctuations to protect the earnings of farmers.
The price depended on the amount of cassava exports to neighboring countries and was low in part because Cambodia lacked factories for processing the tuberous root, Mr. Lyhoeun said.  
“The price is always on the lips of traders from Thailand and Vietnam. We don’t have processing factories here, so farmers are forced to sell at low prices,” he said.
According to researchers if cassava grown in Cambodia could be processed into animal feed and starch, it could become an important source of cash income for poor farmers.
Cassava Day aims to develop markets through better communication among cassava farmers, processing companies and traders, Mr. Sorasak said.
It intends also to create opportunities, share information on issues and promote Cambodia’s cassava products and exports, he said.
Last year, total land under cassava cultivation was 770,000 hectares, up from 574,000 hectares and 400,000 hectares in 2015 and 2014 respectively, the ministry says.

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