Cambodia exported more than 2.8 million tonnes of cassava in the first 10 months of 2022, up nearly three-eighths year-on-year, a new agriculture ministry report revealed, amid a global food crisis fuelled by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The report’s statistics indicate that Thailand bought the lion’s share, at 57.44 per cent or almost 1.65 million tonnes.

From January to October, the Kingdom’s commercial shipments of cassava to international markets totalled 2,868,362.39 tonnes, growing by 35.67 per cent over the 2,114,240.86 tonnes recorded in the same period last year, the ministry said.

The report breaks down the exports by four categories: cassava chips, fresh cassava, tapioca starch and cassava pulp.

Cassava chips accounted for 1,670,090 tonnes, rising by 24.98 per cent year-on-year, of which 1,193,300 tonnes were shipped to Thailand and 476,790 tonnes to Vietnam. Fresh cassava totalled 1,129,000 tonnes, up 51.80 per cent, and went to Vietnam (674,800 tonnes) and Thailand (454,200 tonnes).

Tapioca starch clocked in at 52,093 tonnes, surging by 93.13 per cent year-on-year, and was sold to China (50,225 tonnes), the US (666 tonnes), Italy (565 tonnes), Vietnam (210 tonnes), the Netherlands (152 tonnes), Canada (102 tonnes) Thailand (98.60 tonnes), Malaysia (38.40 tonnes), Singapore (19 tonnes) and India (17 tonnes).

Cassava pulp made up 9,179.39 tonnes – climbing by 25.81 per cent – and went to China (7,624.39 tonnes) and Vietnam (1,555 tonnes).

The woody shrubs are grown in almost every Cambodian province. The crop is typically planted in May and harvested between November and the end of February the following year, although the duration can vary greatly by area.

According to Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak, the South American native root vegetable contributes an estimated three-to-four per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

The government formally launched the “National Policy on Cassava 2020-2025” on January 14, 2021 in a bid to transform Cambodia into a larger, more sustainable and reliable producer, processor and supplier – for both regional and global markets – of more commercially valuable products derived from the key agro-industrial crop.

Chan Muoy, cassava trader and owner of a silo in Battambang province's northwesternmost Sampov Loun district, told The Post on November 17 that the harvest season there tends to be later overall than in neighbouring provinces like Pursat and Banteay Meanchey, having begun just over a week ago, and usually lasting until early April.

She said that in her neck of the woods, the per-kilogramme going-rates for dried cassava chips this week are between 6.5 and seven baht (18 and 19 US cents), and 2.8 baht for fresh cassava, similar to those seen during the same time in previous years “due to high demand”.

Muoy shared that she generally buys the tubers for re-sale to Thai traders, and that “the Chinese also buy a lot of cassava from Cambodia” – even though China accounted for just 2.02 per cent of the official exports for January-October 2022.

Cambodia has relatively few formal export channels to countries with large market potential for its cassava, and has been historically reliant on nearby countries for processing and re-export to third jurisdictions, through transactions that may not be included in the Kingdom’s official figures.

Meanwhile, Battambang provincial Department of Commerce director Kim Hout said that the price of cassava at the beginning of the 2022 harvest was a “little higher” on-year, and that this year's yields and export markets are expected to improve over 2021.

“Through the efforts of the Ministry of Commerce and other stakeholders, we expect that the export market for Cambodian agricultural products this year will be even better than last year, especially when it comes to direct shipments to China,” he said.

At least for the nutty-tasting tubers, major improvements in direct exports to the Chinese market are on the cards after a deal was struck in February for Cambodia to supply 400,000 tonnes of cassava chips “from March 2022 to March 2023” to southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The agriculture ministry reported that Cambodia exported a total of 2,793,728.92 tonnes of cassava in 2021, up 22 per cent year-on-year.

Cassava chips accounted for the most at 1,644,591.68 tonnes, up 8.45 per cent, followed by fresh cassava (1,104,220 tonnes; up 52.6 per cent); tapioca starch (35,862.74 tonnes; up 2.66 per cent) and cassava pulp (9,054.50 tonnes; down 33.06 per cent).