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Hun Sen inaugurates sugar-processing plant

Hun Sen inaugurates sugar-processing plant

First sugar mill to come online since pre-Khmer Rouge era

KOH KONG PROVINCE

[The factory opening] is a good start again for the sugar industry."

CAMBODIA’S first sugar-processing plant for more than 40 years began operations Monday.

The new US$91 million factory in Koh Kong province, built by Thailand’s only listed sugar producer Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Public Co, was officially inaugurated by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“This is a good start again for the sugar industry,” the premier told those at the ceremony, including Khon Kaen President and CEO Chamroon Chinthammit.

Cambodia’s last sugar mills operated in the 1960s, after which they were destroyed during civil war.

Hun Sen said he hoped the new facility would provide a new market opportunity for local sugarcane growers in his speech Monday.

Still, Chamroon told the prime minister earlier this month that the plant would operate at just a third of its total crushing capacity of 6,000 tonnes of raw sugar cane per day due to inadequate labour and a lack of supply of the crop. Hun Sen replied that it was more likely that there had been a shortage of information on employment opportunities at the new factory.

Chamroon said that the current level of activity would translate to output of about 24,000 tonnes of raw sugar per year, well below total capacity of 70,000 tonnes.

Cambodians consume roughly 7.3 kilograms of sugar per year, Hun Sen said Monday citing a study, meaning total annual demand in the Kingdom was just under 95,000 kilograms.

“It would reduce Cambodia’s reliance on imported sugar in the future,” he said.

Khon Kaen lost 2.1 percent on the Thai stock exchange Monday, falling to 14.2 baht ($0.43), its first drop in four days. The firm will issue 150 million new shares to raise funds for expansion, it said in a statement Monday. Khon Kaen would also pay a dividend of 0.15 baht per share, it added.

The prime minister said Monday that Cambodia in future would become an exporter of processed rice, cassava, corn, sugar and other crops and would develop beyond the shipment of raw agricultural produce, the current norm.

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