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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Baitong inks $19m in red corn export deals with Japan, Vietnam

Baitong inks $19m in red corn export deals with Japan, Vietnam

Signings come after farmer reluctance and ruined roads caused company to miss its target for red corn purchases during rainy season

Baitong, a Cambodian producer and exporter of agricultural product, has signed deals to sell 100,000 tonnes of red corn at US$190 a tonne to buyers from Japan and Vietnam over the coming dry season, Baitong President Phou Puy said Monday.

Exports of the corn, which will be used in animal feed, would begin at the start of December, he said.

“We will supply 70,000 tonnes of corn to the Japanese company and 30,000 tonnes to the Vietnamese company in this coming dry season, and will continue to supply them if we are able to buy enough corn,” Phou Puy said.

Baitong managed to collect only 13 percent of the 100,000 tonnes it planned to purchase from farmers in Battambang, Pailin and Banteay Meanchey provinces during the rainy season, Phou Puy said. He blamed stiff foreign and international competition and poor weather that flooded roads and impeded transportation in the three provinces.

The 13,000 tonnes of corn Baitong had managed to purchase had already been sold to a Vietnamese company in September and October, Phou Puy said.

Red corn has recently picked up steam as an agricultural export from Cambodia. A string of announcements in 2009 was capped in July when South Korea-based KOGID Cambodia Co announced plans to purchase as much as 150,000 tonnes for $150 million. It also said it would set up a corn-drying plant in Battambang province.

The three major red corn-producing provinces are Battambang, Pailin and Banteay Meanchey, where it is the second-most important crop next to rice.

Cheam Chan Sophorn, director of Battambang province’s Agriculture Department, said the recently announced supply deals would encourage farmers to increase production of the crop in coming years.

“At present, Battambang province has about 100,000 hectares of land which has potential for growing corn, but farmers have not used all of the land to grow corn yet because they are still concerned that they might not find markets to sell their products,” he said.

A report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries showed that during the dry seasons of 2008 and 2009, the three provinces together grew red corn on 114,343 hectares, yielding 502,798 tonnes, 90 percent of the country’s total production of 561,584 tonnes.

A lack of knowledge of the Kingdom’s agricultural offerings previously led foreign firms to purchase their produce from Cambodia’s neighbours, who directly imported the same agricultural products from the Kingdom, Phou Puy said.

“Many companies I have met promised to come and buy agricultural products from us directly because they are confident that we are able to supply them,” he said.

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