Cambodia exported 423,168.97 tonnes of fresh bananas last year, up by 27.02 per cent over 2020, valued at $4,323,719,300, according to preliminary data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA).

Mainland China was by far the top buyer of fresh Cambodian bananas at 376,961.60 tonnes, followed by Vietnam (45,193.37 tonnes), Japan (533.52 tonnes) and Singapore (480.48 tonnes).

A comparison with an earlier GDA report indicates that over October-December, the Kingdom exported 79,356.6 tonnes of the fruit to mainland China (75,332.6 tonnes) and Vietnam (4,024.0 tonnes).

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon told The Post that the Chinese market is all too eager to buy up any fresh Cambodian bananas on offer.

Although there is considerable interest from investors in banana cultivation, the main dilemma now is that there tends to be shortage of water supply in the more favourable places to grow the fruit, he said.

“We’ve been seeking out suitable lands to grow bananas, to expand the cultivation area, which would allow us to export millions of tonnes to China someday,” Sakhon said.

Longmate Agriculture Co Ltd director Hun Lak told The Post that his company’s banana yields increased last year over 2020, although the total area under cultivation remained the same.

Even during the Covid-19 crisis, Cambodian exporters have never experienced any serious problems with shipping bananas to China, so long as the produce meets sanitary, phytosanitary and other relevant standards, he said.

Chinese authorities last month stepped up controls along the border with Vietnam amid worries over the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, holding up thousands of trucks laden with goods at the frontier.

Lak said: “Any impact on agricultural exports from Vietnam to China due to the re-emergence of Covid-19 – which led to closures along the Sino-Vietnamese border some time ago – does not really have a bearing on Cambodia.

“And that’s chiefly because the number of bananas shipped through Vietnam is quite small – exports to China are sent directly, via Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh ports,” he said.

Lak believes fresh banana exports to China are set to gather plenty of momentum in the near future, buoyed by the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement which went into effect on January 1.

And Sakhon also hinted at an increased focus on raising exports to South Korea and Australia once more bilateral and regional free trade agreements are in place.