Despite flood damage causing reduced production levels, cassava farmers in Pailin province are benefiting from an increase in the purchasing price, provincial department of agriculture officials say.
“This year’s harvest dropped to 25 tonnes per hectare from 30 tonnes per hectare last season because of the heavy rain that happened in September and October last year,” said Chhil Chhen, deputy director of Pailin’s provincial department of agriculture.
Chhen said prices have increased due to more local buyers and foreign-owned companies moving into the province – which borders Thailand – who then export the cassava.
Since the previous season, dried cassava prices have risen from 10 cents to 20 cents per kilo and fresh cassava have increased from 5 cents to 10 cents per kilo, Chen added.
“Just in 2012 and 2013, we have seen a Malaysian and a Chinese company establish themselves in Pailin province to buy cassava directly from local buyers or farmers,” Chhen said.
The increases come after years of falling prices driven by sluggish domestic demand and a competitive Thai market, according to local farmers.
For the past five years, farmers were left with little choice but to lower prices to attract local and Thai buyers, said Meas Mol, the owner of a 50-hectare cassava plantation.
“At that time, there were not many local buyers and we had no other market for our crops besides Thailand. Most of the farmers at that time all experienced losses,” Mol said, adding that he hopes the current prices remain steady for next season.
The cassava harvesting season runs from December to April.
Chhun Taing Orn, another Pailin cassava farmer, said last year’s floods had spoiled a large portion of his land.
“I hope the price remains as it is today or gets higher as I have to pay for labour and petrol to transport the crop to buyers. It [will also be] months until I can harvest again,” he said.
Moul Sam, the accountant for cassava export firm Chamroeun Chey Company, said increased competition had meant a slow down for his business but welcomed healthy prices for the province’s farmers. “Though the total crops decrease, the price remains good. It is good for them,” he said.
Pailin agriculture department data show 80 per cent of the 37,000 hectares of land is used for cassava.