A Tbong Khmum provincial farming community is on tenterhooks as it waits for its 11 20-litre batches of mango wine to ferment, in a new project backed by the provincial agriculture department as it explores new opportunities for the fruit.

The Samaki Dambe Agricultural Community (SDAC) on March 9 started the batches using the Keo Romiet variety of mango found throughout Cambodia, with an aim to commercialise the new product at an industrial scale in what could be a first for the Kingdom, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director Heng Piseth told The Post on March 15.

He said the community comprises 70 growers with some 30,000 trees planted across about 127ha that can yield an average of around 30 tonnes per year.

The mango-wine operation is a joint initiative with the department, backed by its leadership and senior management, to discover value-added uses for domestic agricultural products, boost incomes for growers, create new jobs and exploit local raw materials to the fullest extent possible, he said.

With the fermentation process taking 14 days, Piseth noted that the product will be ready around March 23, adding that results to date have been remarkably positive.

“If the results are good, in terms of quality and in taste, I’ll do what I can to boost production of this Keo Romiet wine as much as possible, as this creates another added-value option for the mango farmers who rely on the export of fresh mangoes and limited processing,” he said.

If support for the project turns out to be widespread, Piseth said he would rush to prop up the domestic market as well.

However, without a commercial mango-processing business plan or comprehensive studies on packaging methods in tow, he stressed that this was just the first rung of the ladder.

SDAC president Um Sophea said he had been in talks with the provincial agriculture department’s senior management to arrange a consultative meeting with its experts on the finer, more technical points of winemaking from mangoes.

He noted that each of the 11 batches had been made with 7.5kg of mangoes in 20-litre water jugs, adding that the prospect of mango-wine production had garnered much attention from SDAC’s farmers.

“The production of mango-made wine has been very good during the week. We expect that next week [once fully fermented], the wines we’ve made will be of top-notch quality,” he said.

With fresh mangoes flooding the market during each harvest season, chipping away at prices, SDAC will do its part to ease saturation and make not only wine, but also dried mango and jelly, Sophea said.

According to Piseth, mango is currently grown on 2,000ha in Tbong Khmum, yielding about 30 tonnes per hectare per annum. Mangoes now cost about 200 riel ($0.05) per kilogramme – similar to last year – and are mostly exported to Vietnam.

The Kingdom exported 43,680 tonnes of fresh mangoes in 2020, according to Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon, adding that China, Thailand, Vietnam, France, Russia and South Korea were major markets for Cambodian mango exports.