Longfruiter Anlong Veng Oddor Meanchey Agriculture Park Co Ltd has invested $51 million in the cultivation of bananas and fruits in Anlong Veng district, Oddar Meanchey province to boost exports, especially to the Chinese market, according to Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon.

Sakhon told The Post on January 24 that the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China (GACC) now allows 22 private companies to export fresh yellow bananas to the Chinese market, up from the initial six.

The minister believes that choosing the region – well-known as the former Khmer Rouge stronghold – to grow bananas was the right decision, as the area has sufficient water resources and is conducive to growing the trees well.

“The Anlong Veng area in Oddar Meanchey province has an important water source, Ta Mok reservoir, which is an important water source for agriculture, so this is a good location that is suitable for growing bananas, as the kind of crop that really needs water,” he said.

With the number of authorised exporters as of the beginning of 2022, the minister expects that Cambodia will soon be able to export “millions of tonnes” of fresh bananas to the Chinese market.

“The possibility of exporting yellow bananas to China could be more lucrative than mangoes, because mangoes require more capital investment – bananas grow faster,” Sakhon added.

Hun Lak, a director at Longmate Agriculture Co Ltd, which grows and exports yellow bananas to China, told The Post that topography, climate and water resources are very important for growing yellow bananas.

In Cambodia, the areas with both fertile land and sufficient water sources for banana cultivation are not plentiful, he said, noting that the large capital investment requirements for setting up a proper modern irrigation system obliges investors to conduct more thorough studies before deciding to invest.

“The yellow bananas that Cambodia has been exporting to the Chinese market as of now is a type that is more special than other varieties. This kind of banana is tastier than others and cannot be left to ripen on the tree, they need to be picked up while dark blue and can be transported far, as it can be stored for up to two months,” Lak said.

He said banana production and exports have increased over recent years, which has encouraged investors to grow more.

However, he suggested that companies intending to invest in the crop adhere to China’s sanitary and phytosanitary standards, to ensure that exports continue to grow.

According to Sakhon, the total land under banana cultivation in Cambodia is currently 16,000ha, of which 11,000ha is harvested, and Ratanakkiri, Kratie, Stung Treng, Kampot, Kampong Cham and Kampong Speu provinces have the largest cultivation areas.

Cambodia exported 423,168.97 tonnes of fresh bananas last year, up by 27.02 per cent over 2020, valued at $4,323,719,300, according to preliminary data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA).

Mainland China was by far the top buyer of fresh Cambodian bananas at 376,961.60 tonnes, followed by Vietnam (45,193.37 tonnes), Japan (533.52 tonnes) and Singapore (480.48 tonnes).