A top agricultural official has called on cooperatives as well as orchard and factory owners who intend to produce, process or package fresh Pailin longan for export to China to register at the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA).

This comes after a final evaluation conducted by Chinese Customs from July 12-15 resulted in the green light for exports of fresh Cambodian longan to China.

Ngin Chhay, director-general of the GDA under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, issued the call at a July 18 workshop in Battambang province on the phytosanitary requirements for the sale of fresh Cambodian longan to China, which was part of a ministry campaign to provide export guidelines that kicked off following the all-clear from Chinese authorities.

Longan, which means “dragon eye” in Mandarin Chinese and is also known by the botanical name Dimocarpus longan, is a tropical evergreen tree species native to Asia that produces edible fruit of the soapberry family, which also includes lychees and rambutan. The most renowned variety Pailin longan, named after Cambodia’s second smallest province by area, which borders Chanthaburi and Trat in Thailand.

Last week’s green light could mean that the maiden consignment of fresh Cambodian longan to China may come sooner than September, the estimated date put forward by the GDA last month, depending on how quickly the directorate issues the relevant licences and makes the necessary preparations.

Chhay told the workshop that sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures are “indispensable” for quality agricultural products to access foreign markets, especially those in more limited quantities or with greater associated risks.

“To export these types of products, Cambodian phytosanitary authorities must make requests to negotiate market openings with their counterparts in importing countries,” he said, adding that the process requires microbiological risk infection assessments, and that fresh longan is regarded as a “high-risk” item.

For Cambodia to be able to export agricultural products, growers must follow good agricultural practices (GAP) during cultivation, harvest and other phases of production, he emphasised.

Banteay Meanchey provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries deputy director Run Sophannara told The Post that on July 13, a team at his department coordinated with Chinese Customs via video link, as part of the final evaluation process, to inspect a longan orchard that is looked after a member of the Malai Longan Cooperative, in Thmey village, Malai commune, Malai district in the province’s southwestern corridor.

Sophannara said that the area under Pailin longan cultivation in the province is about 1,000ha, with 43 primary orchards. Historically, fresh longan could only be exported to Thailand, he said, adding that his department was working to make it easier for orchard owners to apply for GAP certification.

“In recent years, farmers have been very discouraged because Thai traders have stopped buying Pailin longan from Cambodia. But we expect that when we can officially export longan to China, our farmers will no longer have to worry about prices or the market,” he explained.

Pailin Longan Agricultural Production Cooperative (PLAPC) president Suos Siyat reiterated that farmers are ready to gather longan and fulfil orders from the Chinese market, and are merely awaiting the ministerial decision to begin exporting.

He also shared that a Thai company has partnered up with the cooperative to export fresh longan to China in the future.

However, he pointed out, few longan farmers are GAP audited, or have registered to export. “We’re worried that our longan won’t be grown well or … deliver the standards that customers want.”

The latest ministry figures show that Pailin longan cultivation has reached 13,608ha nationwide – mostly in Banteay Meanchey, Battambang and Pailin provinces – of which 8,000ha are harvestable. The trees yield an average of between 15 and 20 tonnes per hectare depending on crop maintenance.