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Cassava needs Q4 catch-up

A farmer picks cassava at a field in Pailin in 2011
A farmer picks cassava at a field in Pailin in 2011. From January to September, Cambodia exported 1.2 million tonnes of cassava. Heng Chivoan

Cassava needs Q4 catch-up

Cassava industry officials have brushed off concerns over an industry-wide slowdown amid the release of third-quarter export data.

The latest figures from the Ministry of Agriculture show that from January to September, Cambodia exported about 1.2 million tonnes of cassava. The third-quarter figure is equal to just 62 per cent of last year’s annual export total of more than 2 million tonnes.

Despite the underwhelming result, Heng Chhunhy, deputy director of Plant Protection and Phytosanitary Office (PPPSO), said yesterday that he was confident the industry would be able to produce the remaining 800,000 tonnes over the final three months of the year.

“We will see the number jump up dramatically starting from October until January when farmers in every province will harvest their crop,” Chhunhy said.

With cassava taking some 8 months to reach full-grown, farmers are forced to wait until December before harvesting their crops.

Chhunhy cited annual increases in demand for cassava since 2010 when the Chinese government first agreed to import the plant root crop from Cambodian farmers provided they adhere to that country’s strict health and customs protocols.

“I expect the cassava export figure to remain the same as last year, or even see a slight increase as China continues to agree to purchase more cassava from Cambodia,” he said, adding that 47 local cassava companies have so far received import approval from the Chinese government.

Sim Thavareak, deputy director of Kampong Cham Provincial Agriculture Department, however, said it was too early to tell if cassava exports will equal last year’s total.

“We cannot say yet that the figure is declining as farmers have not even started harvesting the crop. We will know by year’s end, but I do not think it will decrease,” he said, citing the 60,000 hectares of land currently producing cassava for export.

“The figure is likely to remain the same as last year.”

Moul Sam, the accountant for cassava export firm, Chamroeun Chey Company, based in Pailin province, was similarly confident that volumes would pick up over the fourth quarter of 2014, however raised concerns over price.

“I hope the price will be good once harvest season does arrive,” he said.

“Price usually is good at early harvest season as demand higher than supply.… But that can taper off towards the tail end of the season.”

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