TWPC Investment (Cambodia) Co Ltd plans to set up a $10.4 million cassava processing plant about 10km south of the Thai border in Oddar Meanchey province, which is expected to bring a major windfall for local farmers.

The Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) revealed in a June 19 notice that it has approved a final registration certificate for the proposed cassava project, noting that the venture would create an estimated 99 jobs and be located in Trapaing Tav commune’s O’Sramor village in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng district.

Four officers for TWPC Investment are listed in the Ministry of Commerce’s business registry, all of whom have postal registered office addresses in Bangkok, Thailand. They are “Chalermkeit Chalermpronkit”, “Ren Hua Ho”, “Orn-A-Nong Witchucharn” and “Umnad Sukprasongphol” – the last of whom is senior.

Oddar Meanchey provincial deputy governor Di Rado told The Post that the northern province has recently drawn in a series of fresh investment projects, which he credited to political stability, new infrastructure and improvements in the legal system.

The cassava processing facility will greatly benefit the community by generating jobs and raising farmer incomes, he claimed.

“Processing plants in the province will lessen farmers’ and investors’ concerns about a lack of a market or lower prices being offered by dealers,” he said, declaring: “We in authority sincerely desire more such investments.”

Without providing concrete figures, Oddar Meanchey provincial Department of Commerce director Proeung Brasith confirmed that a considerable share of the province’s cassava crop is shipped to Thailand and Vietnam via middlemen, and that a lack of local processing facilities has caused prices to vary in response to purchase orders from overseas buyers.

Farmers’ per-kilogramme selling rates for wet and dried cassava now average 230 riel (5.6 US cents) and 800 riel ($0.19), respectively, up from 220 riel and 600 riel at the beginning of the year, he said.

“Not only would more local processing facilities help farmers receive higher prices, they’d also motivate them as well as investors to grow more crops,” Brasith suggested.

Meas Chen, a farmer who grows cassava on 3ha of land in Oddar Meanchey’s Trapaing Prasat district on the Thai frontier which also borders Anlong Veng to the east, is convinced that additional local factories will trigger an increase in cassava cultivation.

Chen shared that his family consistently grows cassava based on purchase orders from intermediaries as well as fluctuating market rates, both of which hinge on the markets of bordering countries.

“To provide producers with options when it comes to cultivation and price, I’d favour having more local processing facilities. Growers won’t be able to sell their products for very much if they rely solely on exports,” he said.

Cassava is one of Cambodia’s leading cash crops and a key export product.

Its economic potential prompted the government to adopt the “National Policy on Cassava 2020-2025”, which primarily aims to make the Kingdom a premier producer and preferred supplier of the South American-native root vegetable and derived products to domestic and international markets.

The national policy is guided by three main objectives: to shift production from subsistence levels to market-oriented systems; attract investment to and otherwise support value-added processing; and foster linkages among relevant export sectors, increases in trade competitiveness, and higher penetration into overseas markets.

According to Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak, cassava contributes an estimated three-to-four per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) each year. Using Statista’s $28.33-billion estimate of 2022 nominal GDP, this would amount to somewhere between $849.75 million and $1.134 billion last year, accounting for rounding.

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries figures show that Cambodia exported nearly 1.031 million tonnes of cassava in either fresh, dried, powder or pulp/residue form in the first three months of 2023, of which nearly three-quarters went to Thailand.

Broken down by category, exports in fresh, dried, powder or pulp/residue form respectively amounted to 822,728 tonnes, 155,210 tonnes, 14,701.3 tonnes and 38,252 tonnes.

Thailand accounted for the most at 754,300 tonnes, or 73.2 per cent of the total, followed by Vietnam (261,210 tonnes; 25.34%) and China (15,322 tonnes; 1.49%), with other markets such as Japan, Italy and India taking in smaller amounts.

The agriculture ministry did not provide year-on-year comparison figures. However, the Ministry of Commerce did report a 28.50 per cent jump in exports of “manioc (cassava) and manioc starch” on an annual basis in terms of value, to $285.052 million in the January-March period, from $221.837 million in the same time last year.

These commerce ministry numbers do not appear to include cassava pulp/residues, however.

By comparison, Customs (GDCE) data show that exports of “edible vegetables and certain roots and tubers” – corresponding to Chapter 07 of the Harmonised System (HS) – came to $285.784 million in the January-March quarter, up 30.43 per cent year-on-year from $219.103 million, up 325.8 per cent half-on-half from $67.11 million and up 250.9 per cent quarter-on-quarter from $81.45 million.

These GDCE figures do not include cassava powder (starch, flour and others) or cassava pulp/residues, which instead fall under the “milling products, malt, starches, inlin, wheat gluten” and “residues, wastes of food industry, animal fodder” categories, respectively equivalent to chapters 11 and 23 of the HS.

Agriculture ministry statistics show that Cambodia exported 3.230 million tonnes of cassava in either fresh, dried, powder or pulp/residue form in January-November 2022. The “dried” category made up the most at 1.817 million tonnes, followed by fresh (1.332 million tonnes), powder (57,067 tonnes) and pulp/residue (24,100.39 tonnes).

Notable buyers of Cambodian cassava include Thailand, Vietnam, China, the US, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Malaysia, India and Singapore.