Cambodia exported nearly 62,000 tonnes of crude palm oil in 2021, rising in excess of 176 per cent from a year earlier, worth more than $66 million, or at an average of over $1.06 per kilogramme, according to Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data.

The commodity derives from the oil palm, also known by its botanical name Elaeis guineensis, a tropical plant cultivar which is said to have originated in the ancient rainforests of West Africa.

Ministry director-general for agriculture Ngin Chhay told The Post that overall international demand for Cambodian palm oil remained robust during the Covid-19 crisis, proving to be a major boon for top exporter Mong Reththy Group Co Ltd and Vietnamese-invested companies in the northeastern province of Mondulkiri.

“Palm oil exports were 62,000 tonnes in 2021, and based on prices specified in exporters’ invoices, one tonne came to an average of about $1,065, generating revenue of around $66 million,” he said.

Mong Reththy, chairman of Mong Reththy Group, an agro-industrial conglomerate and by far the Kingdom’s largest exporter of crude palm oil, told The Post that his company shipped out about 47,000 tonnes abroad in 2021, up by three per cent over the previous year.

He attributed the upswing to favourable weather conditions last year, with more than enough rainfall, which translated to a rise in production versus 2020, as well as increasing demand from major markets such as India, the EU and Malaysia despite Covid.

“Cambodia’s palm oil production is still limited compared to other ASEAN countries such as Thailand or Malaysia. Even if we were to send out more exports, it still wouldn’t be enough to meet market demand,” he said.

He revealed that Mong Reththy Group plans to expand its area under oil palm cultivation to 30,000ha from the current 20,000ha, in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nop district, and commented that other provinces lack adequate rainfall to support the trees.

“The current area under oil palm cultivation is not [cost-effective] enough to set up a cooking oil mill, we’d need 30,000ha for production to be feasible … so we’ve opted to simply export the crude palm oil,” Reththy said.

Mong Reththy Group was established on January 1, 1989 and its subsidiary Mong Reththy Investment Cambodia Oil Palm Co Ltd was granted a land concession for an oil palm plantation on January 9, 1996.

Its 20,000ha plantation is the largest in Cambodia and fourth largest in Southeast Asia.

In 2000, the company invested in its first oil palm mill with the capacity of producing 30 tonnes palm oil per hour, and in 2015 built a second mill with a 45 tonne-per-hour processing capacity.