Cambodian longan is ready for a virtual risk assessment from the Chinese General Administration of Customs in the first week of January, a move that will pave the way for a new direct market for the fruit, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said in a notice.
Longan – also known by the botanical name Dimocarpus longan – is a tropical evergreen tree species native to Asia that produces edible fruit of the soapberry family, which also includes lychees and rambutan.
The notice said Pailin province’s sole treatment and packaging plant and a number of plantations selected by the ministry would undergo the risk assessment, which could lead to the signing of a technical protocol for the export of Cambodian longan to China.
The ministry has appealed to plantation owners among the ranks of the Pailin Longan Agricultural Production Cooperative (PLAPC) as well as the proprietor of the plant to be ready to cooperate with General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA) officials to ensure the success of the assessment.
It also urged owners of plantations and treatment and packaging plants to promptly apply at the GDA for permits to export longan to China.
Having received word of the assessment from the provincial Department of Agriculture, PLAPC president Suos Siyat said the cooperative will make every effort to guarantee that the cultivation and maintenance of longan trees are up to the standards required by China.
He said that of the more than 2,000 longan farming households in Pailin, only about 30 per cent cultivate under Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) conditions, and claimed that the remainder fall short of standards.
“We have to be very prepared for this because the Chinese market is so restricted, it won’t be easy for us to export if we don’t comply with their standards requirements.
“Nonetheless, if we can export soon, all longan farmers – not only those in Pailin – but also those in nearby provinces will no longer have to worry about the market,” Siyat said.
Provincial agriculture department director Say Sophat told The Post on December 23 that the department has organised community clusters and trained member farmers on GAP, and would provide further guidance on longan production, so as to meet the standards of the Chinese market.
He noted that the province’s sole treatment-cum-packaging plant uses a vapour heat treatment (VHT) system to sterilise crops and exterminate pests.
“We hope that the Chinese side – or trade partners with China – will allow us to export Cambodian longan, we will correct any shortcomings at the request of the Chinese side, especially those relating to phytosanitary standards,” he said.
Longan cultivation has reached about 5,000ha in the province, he said. However, only a fraction of the trees are mature and ready for harvest during any given season. That ratio was 51.44 per cent at the national level, according to data provided by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon earlier this year.
Sophat added that the current stock of trees would yield 10,000-20,000 tonnes per each of a year’s two seasons. For reference, the agriculture minister says longan trees yield an average of between seven and 30 tonnes per hectare depending on crop maintenance.
The provincial agriculture chief said only 200 longan farming households in the province – or 10 per cent – are PLAPC members and follow GAP principles.
Cambodian longan typically makes it on the Chinese market via neighbouring countries, where it is first shipped, and then repackaged and sold to China mixed in with local produce.
However, longan is set to be the third Cambodian fruit to be officially exported directly to the Chinese market, after bananas and mangoes. Of note, Chinese authorities only consider a single product per country at a time to import, in a process that requires phytosanitary and other pre-export inspections.