A DRY cassava processing plant is under construction in Banteay Meanchey's Svay Chek district, which local businessmen say will help cassava farmers and boost the domestic industry.
The 6-hectare facility, which began construction a week ago, will be the first of its kind in the Kingdom that is able to dry and store cassava, according to businessman Te Haing, who is funding construction of the plant.
"Cassava farmers will be happy when this factory is up and running because it will help dry their cassava and store it for the market," said Te Haing, who owns 1,000 hectares of cassava farms in Banteay Meanchey.
Previously, he added, Cambodian farmers have sold cassava directly to Thai businessmen who have dried cassava for export overseas.
Lacking processing facilities of its own, Cambodia was hit hard when the Thai government blocked the import of Cambodian cassava at the beginning of 2009 in order to protect Thai farmers. Only last month was the blockade lifted.
"I am very disappointed with Thai officials banning the export of Cambodian farmers' cassava into Thailand. It taught me that I should build this factory to help our farmers export their goods to other countries," he said. "When we have this factory, we can dry and pack cassava for export to China, South Korea and other countries."
He added that the plant would be completed in two or three months at a cost of US$1 million.
Banteay Meanchey provincial Governor Ung Oeun welcomed the construction of the factory, calling it "good news" for the province's cassava farmers.
"Before, farmers expected Thai businessmen to buy cassava, but the Thai government has banned Cambodians' cassava," he said. "Soon, they will not need to wait for Thai businessmen; they can dry cassava in Cambodia and pack it to sell overseas."
He said there were 20,000 hectares of cassava farms in Banteay Meanchey, capable of producing 750,000 tonnes of cassava crop. In addition, Battambang and Pailin provinces had the potential to produce another 1 million tonnes.
Farmer Seng Lida, who owns around 10 hectares of cassava fields in Pailin province, said the factory was an excellent idea and called on the government to build more processing plants - including canning factories - to help bolster the agricultural sector.
"When there are factories, people will plant trees and crops for them to produce. But there is not yet any factory for canning fruits," he said. "If the government wants to reduce poverty inside the country, they must find investors and build factories."