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Tycoon hopes to cash in on bananas

Tokyo-based conglomerate All Nippon Airways Trading (ANA) is in talks with the Mong Reththy Group (MRG), to establish a banana plantation with plans to export to Japan, the Cambodian agriculture tycoon said on Friday.

Chairman of MRG, Mong Reththy, who is also a ruling party senator, said that the group of representatives from ANA met with him on May 20 at his farm in Sihanoukville province to assess the viability of banana farming in Cambodia.

“They came to see the possibility for joint-investment of planting bananas and exporting back to Japan,” he said. “They will bring banana trees from the Philippines, which is facing a big severe natural disaster, so they want to grow here for backup in order to maintain their supply chain for their market,” he said.

“But, it doesn’t mean that they will stop their business in Philippines,” he added.

However, he said that it was only early in the planning stage and ANA representatives had come to assess the tycoon’s soil conditions to determine whether the right strain of banana would be suited to his land.

A deal had yet to be signed, Reththy added, but he expects to establish a test area of two hectares later this year to grow bananas and is hopeful that the project might take off next year.

“I think they will start to grow it in early 2016 because after they see my land, which we have 80 canals for water, they said that area is ok for planting. So, they just import the banana tree and experts while we have land and machinery here already,” he said.

ANA is among Japan’s larger conglomerates whose businesses range from aviation to electronics and food imports and exports.

Srey Chanthy, an independent economist and agriculture specialist said that a banana plantation would help to diversity Cambodia’s agricultural exports.

“There will not be the problem with planting bananas here because we have rich soil” he said.

If everything goes according to plan, a polishing and packaging plant would also be built onsite to ready the fruit for export, Reththy said.

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