Thailand's restriction on agricultural imports earlier this year caused dramatic declines for Cambodia’s cassava exports during the harvest season, provincial border officials said yesterday.
Cambodia’s exports of cassava reached 288,109 tonnes in the first six months of this year, a decline of 55 per cent from 634,317 tonnes in the corresponding period of 2012, according to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce. Long Thorn, deputy director of the agricultural department in Battambang province, a major centre of cassava production, told the Post yesterday that cassava farmers in the area were seriously affected by the drop in demand after Thailand blocked imports at the beginning of the year to protect its own industry.
He added that in early 2012 there were about 40 trucks transporting cassava over the border from Cambodia into Thailand every day. But at harvest time this year, only 10 trucks entered through one of four border gates.
“The new Thai importing policy banned cassava imports from Cambodia during the harvesting time in Thailand, so Thai traders just come to buy our cassava only when the supply in Thailand is not enough,” he said.
“Farmers who are careless in maintaining quality and hygiene during pre-harvest and post-harvest time get a lower price and sell less.”
Prices of cassava vary around the country, and even from farm to farm. The price of fresh cassava root that Cambodian traders sold to Thailand was 250 to 300 riel per kilogram. The price for dry cassava ranged from 500 to 600 riel per kilogram.
According to Kim Sareurn, general director of the agricultural department in Kampong Cham province, the price of fresh roots and dry cassava remains stable compared to last year.
Thailand is Cambodia’s biggest export market, followed by Vietnam and China, where processing the raw cassava to make other products takes place.
Srey Chanthy, an agricultural analyst, said that one possible solution to reduce vulnerability could be developing more processing facilities in the Kingdom.
“Having local factories could reduce farmers’ dependency on foreign buyers, give them more markets for their goods and increase their negotiating power.”