Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak has announced that the government will be spearheading a new National Cassava Policy which aims to address challenges in the industry and work towards ensuring a sustainable and resilient crop, strong value chains and greater regional market presence.
Speaking at a dedicated cassava investment forum yesterday in Siem Reap, Sorasak encouraged the private and public sectors to work together to find ways to boost the cash crop and expand market access – primarily to China.
“None of the challenges that Cambodia faces can be effectively and inclusively tackled without global approaches and global cooperation,” he said. “It is only through multi-stakeholder engagements that we can make a difference as we move towards a cassava sector that fulfils its potential.”
He added that the cassava industry requires greater private sector investment.
Total cassava exports in the first nine months of the year have reached only 2.3 million tonnes, a decrease of 21 percent compared to the same period last year. While China is home to the most demanding cassava market in the world, Cambodia has barely exported to the giant nation at all this year, with under 1 percent of its cassava exports reaching Chinese markets.
The Kingdom has sent 91 percent of its cassava exports to Thailand and another 8 percent to Vietnam.
Minister of Agriculture Veng Sokhon said that the government is committed to addressing the challenges cassava faces in accessing the Chinese market.
“We know that China is a main market for the cassava sector, but we cannot reach the Chinese market directly because the high cost of production is an issue,” he said. “We need time to develop our infrastructure, and the government will decide on a specific policy soon in order to attract investors by reducing the costs of production.”
According to David Van, executive director of Deewee Management, the issues facing the cassava sector are varied and include low profitability, high levels of risk and current low levels of investment.
“This [cassava] forum will encourage the Ministry of Commerce to start crafting out a draft for a National Cassava Policy to be similar to the policy suggested for the rice sector,” he said. “[Such a policy] would generate momentum for all players, producers and financiers to jump on board once a clearer roadmap is designed for this sector.”
Access to markets is the key issue for cassava traders and farmers, explained Battambang-based cassava trader Ouk Nearyroth.
“We do not have a market on hand, and we depend only on neighbouring markets,” she said. “We are always forced to sell our cassava at a loss.”