Official fresh Cambodian banana exports clocked in at 325,859.72 tonnes in the first 10 months of 2022, down 11.79 per cent year-on-year, with China buying up an 89.93 per cent share, according to a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries report.

The January-October exports went to just three countries – China (293,060.39 tonnes; down 9.33% on-year), Vietnam (32,799.23 tonnes; down 27.39%) and Japan (0.1 tonnes; down 99.98%)

Hun Lak, CEO of Longmate Agriculture Co Ltd, a company that grows bananas in Kampot province and exports the fresh fruit to China, largely blamed the declines on Beijing’s “dynamic zero-Covid” strategy, which restricted the movement of people and goods, and translated into stricter controls concerning technical, sanitary and phytosanitary standards.

But even after China abandoned the strategy, Lak says the banana export community’s woes persist. “Even fresh mango exports are in trouble,” he claimed.

However, Lak remains optimistic that Cambodia’s banana exports will improve once the Chinese market reopens in earnest.

Bananas became the first Cambodian fruit to be officially exported to China in fresh form, when the inaugural shipment was made in May 2019.

In 2021, Cambodia exported a total of 423,168.97 tonnes of fresh bananas, an increase of more than 27 per cent compared to 2020, with China accounting for the lion’s share at 376,961 tonnes, followed by Vietnam (45,193 tonnes), Japan (533.52 tonnes) and Singapore (480.48 tonnes), according to the agriculture ministry.

The ministry also reported that the Kingdom netted $2.142 billion from non-rice agricultural exports, which included cassava, cashew nuts, corn, Faboideae legumes, fresh bananas and mangoes, oil palm (fresh fruit bunches), peppercorn, tobacco and “assorted vegetables”.

Faboideae legumes, known in Khmer as “sandek”, comprise most beans, peas, lentils and peanuts, but not tamarinds.

The “assorted vegetables” category excludes a number of popular crops that may be considered vegetables in the culinary sense. Notable examples of items not included are: legumes including mung beans and soybeans; grains such as corn and rice; spices like peppercorn and chilli peppers; and cassava.