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China keen on Battambang durians

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Durian tree bearing many fruits. Hong Menea

China keen on Battambang durians

Chinese and Thai companies are negotiating to buy durian in the southwest of Battambang province for export to China in the future, creating opportunities for the farmers to expand their scale of operation.

Nay Chorn, president of Samlout Durian Cluster, said the provincial Department of Agriculture brought Thai and Chinese traders to durian plantations in Samlot district to explore opportunities of exporting durians to China via Thailand.

Speaking to The Post on June 7, Chorn said the entrepreneurs acknowledged that the taste and quality of Samlot durians is better than their Thai counterparts.

However, they have not signed a purchase contract yet because price negotiations are ongoing.

Chorn’s cluster has nearly 20 members, with an annual harvest of 300 to 400 tonnes. Overall, Samlot district planters harvest about 6,000 tonnes of durians a year from around 540ha of mature plantations out of nearly 600ha of cultivated area.

Together, they earn an average of $30 million per year.

“The companies are considering the price we have set which is $5 per kilogramme for top-grade durian. Our cluster has a certificate of good agricultural practices from the agriculture ministry, so we do not have any market issues,” Chorn said.

Although there are no exports from Samlot as yet, the cluster is trying to expand the domestic market, maintaining that the taste of the regional durians is no less pleasing than those grown in Kampot province, which are popular in Cambodia.

“Now, these companies intend to export durian without the shell, so it would have to be peeled first before being exported,” he said.

Chhim Vachira, director of the Battambang provincial Department of Agriculture, said Chinese investors are interested in Samlot durians due to their unique taste and that it can be exported in cool storage containers to China via Thailand.

Vachira explained that the fruits will be exported via Thailand and under a Thai brand because Cambodia is not authorised to export durian directly to China.

“Cambodia does not have a formal export agreement with China unlike Thailand. But negotiations between Chinese investors and Cambodian durian farmers are a good sign for our durian producers.

“They hope to reach an agreement between the two countries soon. We have set a goal to expand durian plantations by 700ha by 2023,” he said.

Meanwhile, Veng Sakhon, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told The Post that Cambodian durians do not have an overseas market and formal talks on a phytosanitary protocol with China have not happened yet.

As such, Cambodia’s durian production is limited.

He added that the Chinese authorities only consider a single product per country at a time to import while they monitor the growth of domestic production.

In the meantime, many other items are on the list of Cambodian agricultural products which would be submitted for Beijing’s approval.

“For now, there isn’t any mechanism related to the processing, harvesting, local transport, cleaning and packaging of local traders in accordance with the standard or requirement of durian exports to other countries,” Sakhon noted.

He said the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia-Ukraine conflict have made domestic transportation, especially Cambodian exports to foreign markets, difficult as shipping costs such as container rental fees have tripled.

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