District governor in Banteay Meanchey province says Thai block on cassava has not stopped exports increasing twofold compared with this time last year
CONTRARY to recent reports that cassava farmers in Banteay Meanchey province have been unable to sell their product in Thailand, Tep Khunnal, governor of the province's Malai district, told the Post Wednesday that cassava exports to Thailand from his district have actually increased this year.
Since January, he said, farmers in his district have exported 12,000 tonnes of cassava to neighbouring Thailand. In the first two months of 2008, he said, they had only managed to sell 6,000 tonnes, meaning that exports of the crop had increased 100 percent since last year.
He said the price had increased from 2,700 Thai baht (about US$75) last year to 2,900 baht (about $80) this year despite reports of an oversupply.
But Tep Khunnal said farmers in his district were concerned about reports from farmers elsewhere in the province that the Thai market had been closed to Cambodian products.
Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said Sunday that Thai protectionism had flooded the domestic cassava market, prompting a price decline this year.
He said he discussed the issue of market access with Thai Commerce Minister Pornthiva Nakasai during last weekend's Asean summit.
If the Thai government closes the border as their people have been demanding, we will suffer.
The English-language Thai newspaper The Nation reported Tuesday that irate cassava farmers "sealed off" the Thai Commerce Ministry for two hours Monday to press the government to shore up cassava prices. Some protesters decried the fact that Cambodian cassava had entered the Thai market, resulting in an oversupply of the crop - cassava has generally been cheaper in Cambodia than across the border due to an increase in production in recent years as farmers have sought to access the Thai market.
The Kingdom's border provinces produce about 100,000 tonnes of cassava per year, according to the Commerce Ministry.
Tep Khunnal said the livelihoods of many farmers in his district were dependent on access to the Thai market.
"If the Thai government closes the border as their people have been demanding, we will suffer because we will have no market to sell our products," he said.
He said he wrote to Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, on March 1 asking officials to find ways to keep the Thai market open to Cambodian cassava farmers.