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First China longan export ‘Nov’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Pechenda boss Phot Saphanborey (left) poses with a longan farmer in Battambang province. PHOTO SUPPLIED

First China longan export ‘Nov’

Pechenda Fruit Production PFP Co Ltd is rushing to deliver on Cambodia’s first formal export of fresh longan to China by November, a trial consignment of the Pailin variety that could be from two to four standard 20-foot shipping containers, or in the 50-80-tonne range, potentially slightly lighter, according to the company’s boss.

Longan – also known by the botanical name Dimocarpus longan – is a tropical evergreen tree species native to Asia that produces white-fleshed edible fruit of the soapberry family, which also includes lychees and rambutan. The most renowned variety is the Pailin longan, named after Cambodia’s second smallest province by area, which borders Chanthaburi and Trat in Thailand.

The soapberry – whose name derives from “dragon eye” as used in different varieties of Chinese – is typically harvested from August to end-December each year, with peak season in November, according to the Pailin Longan Association.

The Chinese embassy on September 8 revealed that Beijing had given the green light to the plantations as well as the processing and packaging facilities registered to produce or handle the fruit for export to China, following a final assessment of quality, phytosanitary and legal considerations as well as compliance with Cambodia Good Agricultural Practices (CamGAP) standards.

With all formalities completed as per Beijing’s rule book, longan is set to be the third fresh Cambodian fruit to be officially exported directly to the Chinese market, after bananas and mangoes. To recap, Chinese authorities only consider a single product per country at a time to import.

All that is left is for Pechenda – a company based in northwestern Battambang province’s Phnom Proek district that cleans, processes, packages and exports agricultural products – to prepare the maiden shipment and fulfil the domestic procedures.

Pechenda board director chief Phot Saphanborey told The Post on October 19 that his company is doing what it can to fulfil as soon as possible the special export procedures afforded by the government.

The company is also working with the Cambodian Longan Cooperative Federation, which has members in Pailin, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces, as well as directly with farmers, offering prices of at least 3,000 riel ($0.75) per kilogramme of Pailin longan, he said.

Affirming that the initial trial consignment would be ready in November, coinciding with the Pailin longan harvest season, Saphanborey suggested that the integrity of the production line would be improved thereafter to start regular exports at an as-yet undetermined date, both of which will depend on the success of the inaugural export.

“Soon the company will start contracting with farmers to provide large-scale exports,” he said, noting that the perceived lucrative potential of fresh longan exports to China has tempted local, Chinese, Thai and other foreign players to vie for a slice of the pie.

He stressed that longan cultivation requires special methods and care to ensure high yields and quality, commenting that Cambodian-grown longan are in general of “good quality”.

Saphanborey shared that the company is mulling over whether to ship the trial batch to China from Phnom Penh Autonomous Port via Vietnam, or directly through Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, considering both costs and the shelf life of the fruit. He offered 10 days as a ballpark estimate for the average time it takes for Cambodian shipments to arrive in China.

He also took the occasion to tout that Pechenda’s owners and workers are all Cambodians.

Pailin Longan Agricultural Production Cooperative (PLAPC) president Suos Siyat remarked that Beijing’s authorisation of direct fresh-longan exports from Cambodia has greatly enthused local longan growers, owners of large plantations and investors.

He explained that Cambodian fresh longan exports have historically been reliant on traders from neighbouring countries for re-export to more distant destinations, who at times would not buy as much fruit as was prepared, resulting in substantial amounts of wasted money for the growers.

Siyat claimed that high demand on the Chinese market would essentially soothe all growers’ concerns related to harvesting. “The harvest season is nigh, so if exports can be done sooner and in larger quantities, that would help farmers earn more income,” he said.

Pechenda was started in 2021 and incorporated on July 27, 2022 with a registered address in O’Prayuth village, O’Romduol commune, Phnom Proek district, Battambang province. The company’s mission is to process Pailin longan, Keo Romiet mangoes, pineapples and other crops for local and international markets.

For reference, the General Directorate of Agriculture reported the 2021 nationwide cultivation area for Pailin longan at “more than 18,000ha”, which it said could yield 131,000 tonnes of fruits per annum, meaning an average in the range of 7,054-7,306kg per hectare – which is relatively low as it includes unharvestable areas.

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