Cambodia exported more than four million tonnes of agricultural products in the last four months, a nearly six per cent increase year-on-year, new agriculture ministry data has revealed.

The latest figures released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries showed that as of April 26, the total volume of agricultural products exported in 2022 was 4,040,704.69 tonnes, a 5.60 per cent year-on-year rise from 3,826,432.85 tonnes. The ministry said exports of rice and cassava products in particular have experienced a significant increase.

However, the ministry noted that the export of some agricultural products such as bananas and fresh mangoes decreased – especially to China – compared to the same period in 2021.

The ministry said in a statement that it consulted with a number of major agricultural exporters and found that the fall in exports was attributable to a number of factors, including a lack of cold-storage facilities for agricultural goods, which has led to a more than threefold rise in the price of such facilities compared to before the Covid-19 crisis.

The tightening of controls on goods to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in line with “zero-Covid” strategies, especially that of China, was also another factor, having led to Vietnamese import entry points being blocked and exports to Vietnam decreasing as a result.

Vietnam-China exports have been delayed as a consequence, exacerbated by additional sanitary and phytosanitary requirements caused by discovery of Covid-19 on the surface of banana packaging boxes by Chinese customs authorities. As a result, some companies have stopped exporting temporarily, with some not harvesting due to the added costs of undergoing such checks.

The agriculture ministry noted the ever-changing nature of the export market, and said it has been trying to adapt by promoting high quality production processes in accordance with importing countries’ requirements. It said it had also been striving to negotiate on modifications of phytosanitary protocols with export markets.

Tropicam Fruit and Vegetable Co Ltd CEO Hun Lak told The Post that the spread of Covid-19 in China has disrupted agricultural exports to East Asian economies on the whole, especially of bananas and mangoes. Restrictions at Chinese ports have made it impossible for some containers from Vietnam to enter, he said.

Lak added that export of bananas and other agricultural products was stagnating due to China’s continued lockdowns and the fact that Vietnam still had a large number of Covid-19 outbreaks, leading to port access in both countries being limited.

He said he anticipated banana exports from Cambodia to continue to face stagnating demand, because China would begin harvesting the fruit from next month, which would likely lead the country to reduce fruit imports.

Van Rithy, executive director of the Agricultural Export Department of agri-machinery company Angkor Green, told The Post that the company’s mango exports this year will fall sharply because it will not be able to export mangoes to China, and has “completely lost” its Chinese consumer base.

Rithy said that Angkor Green had begun attempts to export to neighbouring markets of Thailand and Vietnam in response, but added that it would take time to prepare and plan for the new trading routes.

He expressed pessimism about the export situation improving, noting that mango season is coming to an end, with exports only resuming in the fourth quarter.

“At the end of the year, we are also waiting to see the market situation and the farmers’ cultivation, and how much they will reduce their mango cultivation for export at that time. So we are not sure if, by the end of 2022, our exports will improve,” he said.

According to data from the agriculture ministry, in 2021, Cambodia exported a total of 7,984,252 tonnes of agricultural products to 68 countries and territories, a 63.83 per cent increase compared to 2020.