NOBODY knows more about cashew nuts than Sok Vuthy. The 60-year-old from Kandal province first came to Banlung in 1995. Back then, nobody grew cashew trees in the northeastern province. Now it seems that every farmer has at least one on their land. Sok Vuthy established the trend.
“I came to Ratanakkiri because the province has good soil,” he says. “The following year I decided to set up a plantation.”
It helped that land was very cheap at that time, so it was relatively easy to establish his plantation.
“At first, growing cashews needed little capital,” he says. “We just bought the seed, cleared the land and planted it.”
His business has proved so successful that together with his brother and sister, Sok Vuthy owns 150 to 160 hectares of cashew trees. He employs 20 workers all year round, hiring a further 70 to 80 seasonal employes during the picking season from mid-February to mid-March.
Recently Sok Vuthy has followed the growing trend of turning towards rubber. However, in his case he did not turn his back on the cashew nut, choosing instead to borrow US$80,000 from ACLEDA Bank to plant 100 hectares of rubber trees.
“I could see that rubber is more profitable than cashew nuts,” he says. “If I did not borrow money from ACLEDA Bank I could not expand my business, as I did not have the capital.”
Although he has not yet finished paying off his original loan, Sok Vuthy is already considering a further loan in order to establish a rubber processing plant. In the meantime he is waiting for the first of his rubber trees to mature, which should be in October this year. Then he will decide whether to apply for an additional loan or not, although you sense his mind is already set. “If they give me money, I will be very happy,” he says. “I want to expand.” TRANSLATION BY RANN REUY