Cambodia will soon start cultivating sisal, an agave plant native to southern Mexico which produces a strong fibre, after China Great Cause (Cambodia) Investment Co Ltd received an economic land concession in Preah Vihear province to build a processing plant.
The company imported the sisal – also known by the botanical name Agave sisalana – and will start growing it on 180ha of its 1,200ha plantation in the province’s Rovieng district.
Sisal-made products could be available in the Kingdom by the end of this year, said the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
After visiting the company’s plantation on Saturday, minister Veng Sakhon told The Post that sisal production will benefit the country’s economy by generating jobs and increasing exports.
Sakhon said the crop can be grown in any soil condition, requires little water, and is resistant to hot climates.
“I am optimistic about the crops, and I hope that Cambodians, particularly in the area [Preah Vihear], will grow this crop in cooperation with the company. This is an excellent opportunity for Cambodia to increase its cultivation,” he said.
Sisal-derived raw materials are used to manufacture water-resistant and durable silk fibres. The fibres can be processed into ropes used on boats, sacks and silk fabric, Sakhon said.
The general manager and CEO of China Great Cause (Cambodia) Investment Co Ltd, who declined to be named, said the company is currently developing a total of 5,871ha in economic land concessions as it seeks to cultivate enough sisal before opening the processing plant.
Two-year-old sisal can be harvested three times per year and yield 25-30 tonnes per hectare, he said. Three tonnes of silk fibres can be produced from 30 tonnes of sisal and cost between $1,500 and $2,000 at the current rate.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng said he welcomed the expansion of sisal growing in Cambodia because the plant could be exported in the future.
He said since sisal can grow on a variety of landscapes, farmers will be able to take advantage of less fertile areas.
Brazil is the leading sisal producer, accounting for 32 per cent of the world’s total production. The next largest producers are China (29.1 per cent), Tanzania (17.8 per cent), Kenya (10.4 per cent) and Madagascar (2.9 per cent), data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation shows.