Cambodian cashew nut exports are on the rise, yet export figures are still well below production numbers, with thousands of tonnes unaccounted for.
Unshelled cashew nut exports totalled close to $2.5 million in the first six months of the year, with 2,800 tonnes exported, a rise of 200 per cent over the same period last year, a report from the Ministry of Commerce shows.
But despite the increases, officials and industry leaders told the Post that Cambodia produces close to six times the recorded export figures.
In Kampong Thom, the largest cashew-growing province in the country with more than 23,680 hectares under cultivation, Siv Ngy, president of Kampong Thom Cashew Nut Association, told the Post yesterday that he was sceptical of the official export figures, as average cashew nut production stands at about 70,000 tonnes per year.
“Traders buy at least 200 tonnes of raw cashew nuts from farmers per day during harvest season, which runs from February to late July. Traders later export the nuts to Vietnam,” he said.
“It is unlikely that the domestic market consumes so many cashew nuts. There is demand only for processed cashew nuts in the domestic market, and the supply of these remains low because we lack processing facilities.
“Raw cashew nuts only find demand from neighbouring countries, like Vietnam,” Ngy added.
Um Uon, president of Prasat Sambor Cashew Association in Kampong Thom, the province’s largest processor of cashew nuts for the local market, said a lack of funding meant his organisation was capable of purchasing just 6 tonnes of raw nuts to process just 1.2 tonnes per year.
“We only have enough funds to buy cashew nuts from farmers to process. There is actually a real demand in the local market if we could process more,” he said.
The remaining nuts, he said, are sold to traders, who pay farmers in cash on the spot.
When questioned as to where the unrecorded nuts were going, Ken Ratha, spokesman at the Ministry of Commerce, said cashew nuts may be slipping through smaller corridors at the borders where figures are not recorded.
“Farmers export cashew nuts by themselves, or traders are avoiding tax,” he said.