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Cassava prices up on delayed harvests

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Cambodia’s cassava crop has been impacted by flooding that has delayed some harvests and decimated others. Heng Chivoan

Cassava prices up on delayed harvests

Cassava prices in Cambodia’s northwest corridor have skyrocketed to astonishing heights in the wake of the recent massive floods that have compromised yields in one of Kingdom’s most fertile regions.

Cassava is grown in almost every Cambodian province. The crop is planted in May and harvested between November and the end of February each year. But this year’s floods delayed the harvest until the beginning of this month.

Banteay Meanchey provincial Department of Commerce director Bouk Laychy told The Post on December 13 that 10-15 per cent of the crop in his province had been destroyed by the deluges.

Pointing out the diminished yields in Cambodia and Thailand, he noted that virtually all cassava in the province is bought by traders and sold to the neighbouring country to be processed for human consumption or animal feed products.

“Falling yields in Cambodia and Thailand due to flooding are pushing up cassava prices now, by as much as 70 per cent in some cases,” Laychy said.

Now in its 10th day of harvest, he said traders are doling out 350 riel ($0.086) per kg of fresh cassava and 860-915 riel for dried ones.

This is in stark contrast with last year’s levels, when traders would spend just 200 riel for fresh cassava and 650-670 riel for dried ones, he said.

According to him, the cassava harvest in Banteay Meanchey was about 20 per cent complete.

With the series of measures that the government has in place to strengthen and expand agricultural production amid Covid-19, Laychy said the pandemic is propping up overall agricultural output and encouraging more migrant workers in Thailand to return home.

Battambang provincial Department of Commerce director Kim Hout said the cassava fields that were unaffected by the floods had higher yields year-on-year.

But those in flooded areas were decimated, he said, adding that they would knock down overall yield in the province below last year’s harvest.

“Cassava and corn prices this year have risen much higher than last year’s levels as well,” Hout said.

He said silo owners based along the border have been reportedly unable to buy up enough cassava from local growers to fulfil the wave of orders coming in from traders to supply the Thai market.

Chan Muoy, the owner of a silo in Battambang province’s northwesternmost Sampov Loun district, said the harvest had begun a month later than last year, leading to dispiriting yields.

“I’ve gotten plenty of orders from Thailand but have only been able to buy a tiny amount from farmers here,” she said.

She said farmers were now selling fresh cassava at 360 riel per kg and dried ones at 830 riel. By contrast, initial purchases last year were about 295 riel per kg for fresh cassava and 600 riel for dried.

Tbong Khmum provincial Department of Commerce director Toch Sokhon said the price of fresh cassava in Tbong Khmum was between 410-420 riel per kg, up from 380 riel in the same period last year.

Cambodia exported 1,780,496 tonnes of fresh cassava to Vietnam and Thailand along with 1,202,644 tonnes of cassava chips in the first nine months of the year, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported.

The Kingdom also shipped 12,002 tonnes of tapioca starch to India, China, Belgium, the Netherlands, Pakistan, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Italy, it said.

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