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Thai restrictions cap cassava exports

Cambodia’s cassava exports reached 245,438 tonnes in the first quarter this year, a 47 per cent decline quarter-on-quarter, from 465,640 tonnes in the final quarter of last year, according to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce released early this month.

While most exports went to Thailand, Vietnam and China, where processing takes place, Thailand also is a major market for Cambodian cassava. Officials in border provinces and traders said Thailand’s restriction on cassava imports early this year and informal exports that have not been recorded are the reasons for the decline.

In Sovanmony, director of the agronomy, soil and improvement of agricultural department in Battambang province, a major cassava plantation area in Cambodia, told the Post yesterday that it is estimated that 30 to 35 per cent of the total exports go to Thailand without being officially recorded.

“Since early this year, Thai traders require stricter control on imported criteria,” said Sovanmony. “Farmers who are careless in maintaining quality and hygiene during pre-harvest and post-harvest time get a lower price and sell less output.”

During the first three months, the total value of Cambodia’s cassava exports reached $11.7 million, about 30 per cent of the total export value last year. However, the figure from the Ministry of Commerce shows that the export volume is only high during the first few months of the year.

Fresh roots and dry cassava have different prices. On average, fresh cassava root is selling at 260 riel per kilogram in Battambang province, while dried cassava costs 650 riel per kilogramme.

Nevertheless, cassava prices vary around the country, and even from farm to farm.

Te Haing, a large cassava farm owner in Banteay Meanchey province, said farmers have been hit by the lack of established marketing channels. Villagers do not have good information about cassava prices and in some instances Thai traders have taken advantage of that and made them sell at a lower price than they might have otherwise.

“Our market is narrow. The price fluctuates and depends on demand from Thailand,” he said.

However, on the fourth Cambodia-Thailand Joint Trade Committee meeting held in Cambodia late last month, Thailand agreed to remove import restriction measures on cassava and maize from Cambodia in order to further boost the trade performance with Cambodia.

“Alongside [releasing the restrictions], we will also strengthen co-operation, boosting trade of other agricultural products,” Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh told reporters after the meeting.

Earlier this week, the Bangkok Post reported that the Thai government may not need to subsidise cassava in the 2013-14 season, as prices have recovered amid high demand for its use in alternative energy, especially in China.

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