With demand for Cambodian cassava on the rise abroad, the government is calling on local and foreign investors to up their stakes in the nation’s cassava industry.
Speaking at a workshop on exporting cassava held yesterday in Phnom Penh, Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said that Cambodia is the third top cassava exporter in Southeast Asia, behind Thailand and Indonesia.
“We are looking for companies to invest in cassava processing in Cambodia. Currently, we have some cassava factories in the country, but there are not enough,” he said, adding that the number of existing processing plants is insufficient to cope with increased cassava production.
“The ministry is seeking to expand the market to help cassava producers connect with buyers,” Mr Thora added.
He said the cassava sector in the country faces a number of challenges, including fierce competition from neighboring Thailand.
Mr Thora also urged the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to conduct studies into improving the agricultural techniques used by local farmers.
Song Saran, CEO of Amru Rice, Cambodia’s leading rice miller and exporter, told Khmer Times that to compete with neighboring cassava-producing nations, Cambodia needs a concrete plan of action to attract investors willing to build factories.
“Cambodia is lagging far behind neighboring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam. The government must find ways of attracting investors, as we are now dependent on Thailand and Vietnam when it comes to processing agricultural products,” Mr Saran explained.
He suggested that the government starts by considering a reduction in the cost of electricity and transportation, as well as cuts in VAT and export taxes. Likewise, Mr Saran says, export procedures should be simplified and streamlined.
The price of cassava is relatively high this year. Dry cassava is selling for 570 riels per kilogram, while last year it went for just 300 riels, according to Sat Thiep, manager of Oddar Meanchey’ Cassava Association.
Recently, Amru Rice signed a deal with Thai Starch Company to supply 8,000 tonnes of fresh organic tapioca – a starch extracted from the cassava root – with the first shipment scheduled for early 2019.
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.
The country exported 2.3 million metric tonnes of cassava chips – about 5.5 million tonnes of tubers – during the first nine months of the year. According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, cassava slice exports in 2016 amounted to 2.9 million metric tonnes, which mostly went to China, Thailand and Vietnam.