The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has called for increased private sector investment in longan processing for export, as the Kingdom seeks to negotiate market access with phytosanitary authorities in a number of countries.
The move intends to broaden markets for local longan growers struggling to sell their produce to traders, processors and exporters, which are significantly bogged down by plant-protection barriers and a raft of other obstacles posed by the pandemic.
Longan – also known by the botanical name Dimocarpus longan – is a tropical evergreen tree species native to Asia that produces edible fruit of the soapberry family, which also includes lychees and rambutan.
According to Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon, in Cambodia the fruit, branded as “Pailin longan”, is mostly grown in the provinces of Pailin and Battambang, and in parts of Preah Vihear province.
The ministry said in a letter on August 20 that Pailin longan are a restricted commodity subject to phytosanitary barriers. This, it said, requires Cambodian phytosanitary authorities to negotiate deals in advance for market access with counterparts in other countries, who must assess biosecurity risks posed by pests associated with the fruit.
In this context, building and maintaining the infrastructure for cleaning, disinfecting and packaging, and ensuring compliance with agreed phytosanitary requirements is an important technical task in the negotiation, inspection and evaluation phases, and even after exports begin, it noted.
The ministry called on the private sector, the agricultural community, relevant institutions and the public to join its drive to stimulate fresh longan exports, by investing in the necessary infrastructure and expand existing facilities, so that more fruit can be bought to process for export to the countries with which the Kingdom signs new phytosanitary requirements protocols and keep pace with demand.
Earlier this month, Cambodia and Vietnam agreed on phytosanitary requirements permitting Cambodian longan to enter the Vietnamese market, according to the ministry.
Minister Sakhon said in an interview with National Television of Cambodia (TVK) on August 20 that the government needed about $49 million to buy Pailin longan from farmers banned by Thailand from exporting.
“According to estimates for direct purchases from plantation owners, Pailin longan this year will have an average price of 1,800 riel [$0.44] per kg, so we’ll need about $49 million to buy them all of the farmers’ output. The expected yield of longan is about 110,000 tonnes this year,” he said.
The ministry said it and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation are working with the relevant authorities of China and Thailand to conclude talks over phytosanitary requirements for longan exports as soon as possible.
Pailin longan is expected to be the third Cambodian fruit to be officially exported directly to the Chinese market, after bananas and, more recently, mangoes, according to the agriculture minister. But as the ministry’s director-general for Agriculture Ngin Chhay previously told The Post, Chinese authorities only consider a single product per country at a time to import.
Farmers and exporters to Thailand have been dealing with severe market pressures following the neighbouring country’s complete halt in purchases of Cambodian longan, after China on August 13 imposed a ban on Thai longan over contamination with mealybugs, which it lifted just four days later.
Pailin longan cultivation has reached 13,608ha nationwide, of which 7,000ha will be harvested this season. The trees yield an average of between seven and 30 tonnes per hectare depending on crop maintenance. And according to the Pailin Longan Association, the harvest typically occurs from August to end-December.