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Lacklustre prices, competition dampen cassava exports

Farmers load their trailers with harvested cassava last year in Banteay Meanchey province.
Farmers load their trailers with harvested cassava last year in Banteay Meanchey province. Heng Chivoan

Lacklustre prices, competition dampen cassava exports

Cambodian cassava farmers are facing dropping prices in the agro commodity this season, as the lack of a domestic market and dependence on exports, which faces competition from neighbouring countries, has led them to call for government intervention.

Chhay Thi, a cassava farmer in Rattanakkiri province’s O’Yadav district, said yields on his 4-hectare farm had reduced from 12 tonnes per hectare last season to just 8 tonnes this harvest, given the drought-like conditions and depleting land quality.

This added to the dropping prices of cassava, he said, calling on the government to intervene. The price of dried cassava, Thi said, had dropped from 550 riel per kilo earlier this season to 490 riel per kilo. Last season, prices were around 630 riel per kilo of dried cassava.

“We do not have any income for this year and we hope that the government will take more action to promote the cassava sector and help farmers” he said.

He said cassava traders, or middlemen, have been reluctant to buy the starchy tuber because exporting cassava to Vietnam has become more difficult. That fact, coupled with the lack of agro processing industries here, has meant there was no one to buy their raw product.

“No one wants to buy cassava anymore and it has no market in Cambodia because there are no factories here,” Thi added.

While there were export markets for cassava in places like China, Thailand and Taiwan, the low price of cassava made it difficult to make any profits, which resulted in delayed buying from farmers, said Hun Lyhoeu, director of agro firm Drycorpkh Cambodia.

“The price of cassava is decreasing every two weeks, which makes it hard for farmers and my company to make a profit,” he said.

Lyhoeu added that the cassava association should take up the issue with the government, given that exports were heavily dependent on other countries purchasing the commodity.

Sem Sithisak, director of Cambodia Cassava Development Association, said that it was really hard to take action to increase cassava prices due to the free-market approach to cassava trading.

“It is a free market and it is really hard to promote our cassava product,” he said, adding that the government should promote the setting up of processing factories, which was one way to help farmers.

Given that agro commodity prices have been decreasing over the last few years, Srey Chanthy, independent economist specialising in agriculture, said similar harvest seasons in Thailand, Vietnam and China resulted in low demand for Cambodian cassava.

He added that there was a need to set up agro processing factories, so that the country could increase its value-added and export semi-processed products to other countries.

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