Cambodia's agricultural sector has experienced fluctuations in the first half of this year, with cashew nut exports surpassing more than 360,000 tonnes, a noteworthy increase of 12.67 per cent over the same period in 2022, according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

However, this surge is not without its challenges. Ministry spokeswoman Im Rachana disclosed that the export figures for cashew nuts experienced a slump in the first quarter of the year, amid market uncertainty and climate change impacts.

“In June, our exports amounted to more than 28,190 tonnes. The decrease can be attributed to several factors, including crop quality, unauthorised exports without the necessary phytosanitary certification, and transactions carried out via Vietnamese and Thai corridors which have not been documented,” she explained.

Adding to the complexities, Cashew nut Association of Cambodia (CAC) president Uon Silot reported on July 9 that the downturn was also a result of farmers eliminating approximately 100,000ha of cashews in the last two years.

“On the other hand, farmers opt to dry the seeds for sale when the price of raw seeds escalates between August and October. Some, however, sell immediately due to financial obligations such as repayments to banks or financial institutions”.

In 2022, cashew product exports contributed just over $1 billion to the national economy, second only to rice. This statistic emphasises the significance of the cashew sector in fuelling national economic growth.

“This is why the CAC has been proactive in seeking partnerships, especially within the finance sector, to stimulate cashew exports. In June 2023, we allied with the state-owned Small and Medium Enterprise [SME] Bank to increase financial accessibility for CAC member at reduced interest rates,” Silot continued.

He underlined that this cooperation is part of a strategic goal set by the bank to bolster the cashew sector’s growth in Cambodia.

“We firmly believe that the signing of this memorandum of understanding contributes to resolving issues in the cashew production chain, while also aiding the promotion of the cashew processing industry in Cambodia,” he said.

Silot went on to highlight that if the government aims to expedite the growth of the cashew sector, it must encourage local investors to invest in processing for export, instead of waiting for foreign investors.

He stressed that active implementation of the cashew policy through two state-owned banks –Agricultural and Rural Development Bank (ARDB) and SME Bank, both of which support SMEs – is a testament to this effort.

“We are implementing this policy with the agriculture ministry, which has facilitated all this work, without which it would be challenging for us to execute our duties,” he said.