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National cassava policy in the works

May Kunmakara / Khmer Times Share:
A man cuts cassava root on a farm in Pailin. Reuters

Veng Sakhon, the Minister of Agriculture, said yesterday the government will promote contract farming to boost cassava production, sustain the price of the commodity and attract more investment into the sector.

The minister’s remarks follow continued growth in the production and exports of Cambodian cassava.

Speaking at a cassava investment forum held this week in Siem Reap, Mr Sakhon said cassava production played a central role in the government’s plans to diversify agricultural output.

He added that his ministry will help establish contract farming schemes in key provinces to ensure supply of cassava, lure investors into the sector and guarantee a good price for the commodity.

“We have to set up the policy and an in-depth action plan on cassava production in Cambodia based on cooperation with concerned stakeholders,” he said.

“We are working on setting up the agricultural community, designing the plantation area to meet market demand both locally and abroad and putting contract farming models in place which can protect our farmers.

“By doing this, we can connect our farmers and the cassava community with businesspeople and investors, as well as to the global market,” he added.

Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak noted on Monday that the cassava industry had been experiencing notable growth, accounting for nearly four percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.

“Cassava is not only an agricultural sector nor a development sector; it is first and foremost a business,” he said.

“As such it requires greater investments by the private sector all across the value chains, including from research and development institutes, seed and fertilizer companies, food manufacturing and processing investors, marketing and export promotion agencies, logistics and transport firms,” Mr Sorasak added.

The Ministry of Commerce is now spearheading the formulation of a National Cassava Policy to address challenges, investment opportunities and boosting production and exports.

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 Khmom and Oddar Meanchey.

Mr Sakhon said exports of Cambodian cassava have expanded beyond the four traditional markets – China, France, Vietnam and Thailand – to reach other countries like Canada, England, Finland, India and Italy.

“We have big cassava plantations, a lot of farmers working with the crop and have recently attracted some big investments into the sector,” he said.

“However, we still call on the private sector, domestic and international, to invest in Cambodian cassava as there is a lot of potential and a lot of opportunities that are not being taken.”

According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Cambodia exported 2.3 million metric tonnes of cassava chips – about 5.5 million tonnes of tubers – during the first nine months of the year.

Cassava chip exports in 2016 amounted to 2.9 million metric tonnes, which mostly went to China, Thailand and Vietnam.

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