After a nearly 10-year production hiatus, a joint venture sugarcane factory in Kratie province’s northernmost district plans to start exporting, and is pushing to increase cultivation to maintain the sustainability of its supply chain, a senior provincial official told The Post on November 23.

Kratie provincial deputy governor Pen Linat said the plant reopened last year following investment by local and Vietnamese investors and now employs more than 500 workers, and that 3,000ha of sugarcane of a planned 10,000ha have been planted at an attached plantation.

Located in O’Krieng commune in the northern reaches of Sambor district, the operation is a collaboration between Camden Novcher and Svay Rieng Youth Agricultural Co.

Linat said the sugarcane factory is the only one of its kind in the province, and was set up by an Indian investor nearly 10 years ago, but later went bankrupt.

The Vietnamese company last year expressed interest in the factory and plantation, he said, adding that the plantation’s sugarcane would be harvested in the coming months.

He noted that the factory would “in the past” process the sugarcane into raw sugar – which has a beige tint from its molasses content – but not commercial-grade granulated sugar.

According to the deputy governor, about 90 per cent of the plant’s production line is automated, which he said requires a lot of capital investment.

He said that bringing the site up to full operation could pave the way for the production of alcohol and electricity generation from sugarcane byproducts.

Kratie provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries deputy director Ork Darun noted that the perennial grass could be grown in any locality of the province, “but because private companies are investing in sugarcane factories in Sambor district alone, the crop is only grown in that area”.

But the joint venture is not the only sugar producer in the Kingdom.

In December 2019 during a visit to a Phnom Penh Sugar Co Ltd factory production line in Kampong Speu, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon said the plant has the daily capacity to refine 1,000 tonnes of granulated sugar and produce 1,000 tonnes of brown sugar.

Today, Sakhon said, the domestic market and Vietnam are the company’s largest destinations. “The company plans to further ramp up exports to overseas markets,” he said.

The Kingdom exported more than $18.95 million worth of sugar and confectionery items in the first half of this year, down by 43.9 per cent year-on-year from $33.79 million, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia.