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Biofuel plant delayed

CAMBODIA’S only biofuel production plant has pushed back its reopening by two months, as the price of cassava remains high.

MH Bio-Energy plant, a Kandal province factory owned by South Korea that uses cassava to produce ethanol for sale on EU markets, first opened in November 2008 with an initial investment of US$30 million. However, its doors have been closed since May because of rising crop prices.

Boeun Thy, chief of MH’s administration office, said: “We will continue to be closed until December because the price of cassava remains high.”

He said dry-chip cassava was fetching US$230 per tonne, compared US$178 to $181 per tonne early this year.

“We cannot make any profit if we buy the cassava at such a price,” he said.

The situation, he said, was about to change. By November, the firm would be able harvest its own cassava from Kampong Speu province, where it had planted on 8,000 hectares of land, enabling it to bypass market prices, he said.

Chov Tav, 57, a cassava farmer in Banteay Meanchey province’s Thmar Pouk district, said: “I hope that I could sell fresh cassava for at least 2,500 baht [about US$82.70] per tonne early next year.”

The current price is about 2,250 baht [about US$74.40] per tonne.

He also said Thailand banned imports of Cambodia cassava in 2009, which meant that few farmers planted the crop, but that this year more than 1,000 local families had backed it as their crop of choice. Middlemen were already in place to aid exports, he said.

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