The government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have called on farmers to grow cassava as a national policy on cassava production nears finalisation.
A UNDP study on Friday found that investing in cassava can result in higher yields than investing in rice, rice production, livestock, food and beverages, and tourism sectors. Direct revenue growth from the cassava sector is estimated to be about $130 million over 10 years.
Speaking at the launch of the report, UNDP project manager Leang Reathmana said there is a growing demand for cassava from world markets – especially China – and the government and the private sector need to invest more in cassava.
“[Any potential investment] is an encouragement for people living in the right areas to grow cassava.
“Cambodia’s strengths are, firstly, our huge production. Secondly, we can allot more land for agriculture. Thirdly, the land we use to grow cassava is more suitable than that in Thailand and Vietnam,” he said.
The UNDP report said about $296 million is needed in a public investment package for the development of the Kingdom’s cassava sector, citing a lack of focus on domestic processing.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Commerce is preparing a national policy on the cassava production sector aimed at promoting exports.
Speaking at the launch, Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Mao Thora said cassava is the Kingdom’s second-largest crop after rice and requires a national policy.
“Many people are growing cassava – more than half a million families. It [the national policy] will help improve their livelihoods.
“We submitted our documents to the Council of Ministers [CoM] for approval in principle, but it did not pass as the document did not meet government requirements,” he said.
He did not provide a timeframe for the resubmission of the documents to the CoM.
‘Aiming for higher yields’
Tbong Khmum provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director Heng Piseth told The Post that cassava in the province is being grown on 50,000ha this year and that output is about one million tonnes per year.
He said most of the province’s cassava is sold to Vietnam. The price for cassava in the province was around 340 riel (8.4 US cents) per kilogramme at the beginning of this year’s harvest.
“Aiming for higher yields, the department has spread information to cassava farmers on how to choose good seeds and keep proper maintenance,” he said.
However, he said disease and drought remains a challenge for farmers. “We are teaming up a group of farmers to sell cassava to traders via an agreed price matching the market rate,” he said.
The report said public intervention is crucial for the sector to achieve these goals. The state must provide the resources needed for the cultivation, processing, marketing and implementation of supporting infrastructure projects.
Ministry of Commerce data shows that Cambodian cassava exports were worth $17.8 million in 2017, but fell to $12.6 million last year.
Last year, the Kingdom produced 13,750,076 tonnes of cassava – down slightly from 13,817,262 tonnes in 2017. Cultivation increased six per cent from 612,861ha in 2017 to 650,310ha, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data shows.