The establishment of a cassava processing plant in the remote northwestern province of Oddar Meanchey is set to boost both yield and market presence of the commodity, in line with the government’s recognition of the root as a primary agro-industrial crop.

Following a preliminary launch in December, the $10 million facility, owned by TWPC Investment (Cambodia) Co Ltd and located in the province’s Anlong Veng district near the Thai border, was formally inaugurated on February 7.

Cassava holds an important position among the country’s leading industrial crops. In early 2021, the government officially launched its 2020-25 National Cassava Policy, aiming to enhance production and promote its commercial export to global markets.

600 tonne/day capacity

Phleang Put, from the sourcing and farm department of TWPC Investment, told The Post on February 11 that the facility represents just the beginning, as the company intends to further expand its production line in the future.

“According to the plan, our production chain will be fully operational from February 21 onwards. The factory is capable of processing 600 tonnes of fresh cassava daily, which equates to approximately 150 tonnes of tapioca starch. The operation of the factory will be continuous throughout the year, ensuring there are no concerns regarding the quality and quantity of fresh cassava products entering the factory,” he said.

TWPC Investment is a branch of Thai Wah Public Company (TWPC), a Thai-based conglomerate that operates cassava processing plants in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. According to Put, the company is also exploring investment opportunities in Laos.

Market and price concerns eliminated

El Chhinh, president of the Cassava Farmers Association, said the presence of the investment firm would significantly enhance cultivation, quality and pricing for farmers, particularly in Oddar Meanchey. 

He noted that this is due to the company’s commitment to purchasing almost all resources from local farmers, unlike some factories that operate their own plantations.

“The establishment of such a direct factory not only alleviates farmers’ concerns about market and price issues but also contributes to job creation for local people, boosting household incomes and the national economy,” he said.

Chhinh added that once the factory is fully operational, it plans to assist farmers by providing planting techniques, fertilisers and other resources to improve the yield and quality of crops.

The association’s price list indicates that, as of February 5, fresh cassava in the province was priced between 295 and 340 riel ($0.072 and $0.084) per kilogramme, varying according to quality and soil stain levels.

Cambodia is currently home to six cassava processing factories: three in Kratie province and one each in Oddar Meanchey, Kampong Speu and Ratanakkiri. Annually, 60-70% of fresh cassava is exported by traders, as reported by the association.

Song Saran, chairman of Amru Rice (Cambodia), who was present at the inauguration of the plant, said it will play a crucial role in promoting and encouraging farmers to enhance both the cultivation and quality of their crops.

“Opening a factory directly in Cambodia like this is extremely beneficial for the company, as it ensures access to better quality and more affordable cassava, while offering the local community increased income opportunities and new job creation,” he said.

Political stability, law attract investment

Provincial deputy governor Dy Rado said that political stability, the development of new infrastructure and improved investment legal systems have positioned the province, like others in the country, as attractive for various investments. 

He noted that such direct processing plants are extremely beneficial to locals by providing job opportunities and enabling farmers to earn more income.

“Having a processing plant in the province itself will alleviate the concerns of farmers and investors regarding the lack of markets and lower prices from traders, as it offers an alternative to selling solely to neighbouring countries. On behalf of the authorities, we are very keen on more investments of this nature,” he said.

Rado also noted that cassava is regarded as a potential agricultural product in the province, following rice.

Preung Prasidh, director of the provincial commerce department, explained that harvested crops are typically bought by traders and resold in Thailand or Vietnam. 

He highlighted that the absence of a local processing facility has historically led to price fluctuations based on overseas market demands.

“Establishing more local processing plants will not only ensure higher prices for farmers but also encourage both them and investors to expand their [activities],” he added.

A 2023 report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries showed that the Kingdom exported over 3 million tonnes of cassava products that year. 

This included 1.96 million tonnes of fresh cassava, a 26.51% increase from the previous year, 1.2 million of cassava chips (down 37.64%), 36,257 of tapioca starch (down 45.39%) and 74,796 of cassava pulp (down 75.31%).

Former commerce minister Pan Sorasak had previously stated that the root is an agro-industrial crop and one of the country’s main exports, contributing 3-4% to the nation’s GDP annually.