The agriculture ministry has urged longan growers and relevant private sector companies to register their plantations and packaging plants “as soon as possible” to be able to export the fruit to China, as negotiations on the export process reach their final stages.
Ngin Chhay, director-general of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ General Directorate of Agriculture, said in a press conference on March 18 that negotiations with the Chinese side had now reached the sixth of seven phases, with the next one being the point at which Cambodia can begin exporting longan to China.
Noting that the protocol on phytosanitary requirements came into force on March 16, the ministry on March 25 called on owners of Pailin longan plantations, members of the Pailin Longan Association (PLA) and relevant private sector companies to apply for registration of their plantations and packaging plants at the directorate to expedite the export process.
Chhay said the ministry was “paying close attention” to the review of the plantations, packaging plants and pesticides that have been submitted to the Chinese side to ensure their compliance with the provisions of the protocol before the fruit could be exported.
Pailin provincial agriculture department director Say Sophat told The Post on March 27 that “only about 30 per cent” of longan cultivators in the province who had attended training at his department last year had applied for farm registration.
He attributed the low numbers of trained farmers to existing “untrained” farmers’ hesitance to take the plunge of cultivating longan for purposes of export to China. Some growers cited the continued rise of Covid-19 cases, while others were taking a wait-and-see approach on the process of exporting longan to China, he said.
Sophat noted that the cultivation of Pailin longan in the province itself is less than in neighbouring Battambang due to the lack of irrigation systems in Pailin province, but that the department is “currently preparing to develop more systems so that the longan can be exported to China in the near future”.
Battambang provincial agriculture department director Chhim Vachira said that “many” Pailin longan growers in Battambang province have already registered, and urged those who haven’t to do so soon.
“Our farmers have registered and implemented a good number of agricultural principles, and we will follow the demands of the Chinese side. Both the association as well as the farmers are ready, and are just waiting for the green light from China to actually allow them to export the longan,” he said.
Pailin Longan Agricultural Production Cooperative (PLAPC) president Suos Siyat said that of the more than 2,000 farming families in Pailin, only “about 50” of them cultivate under the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) programme and are registered with the directorate.
He noted that longan cultivation in the province is “not yet up to standard”.
“Currently, the Pailin provincial Department of Agriculture is urging growers to participate in training through the GAP programme and to register as soon as possible.
“On the association side, we want to have more factories where we can pack and kill insects, because when the Chinese side allows for exports, we will, by that time, hopefully already have enough capacity to export more Pailin longan,” he said.
Pailin longan cultivation is currently increasing significantly, with plantations throughout the country spanning more than 13,608ha, found mostly in Battambang, Pailin and Banteay Meanchey provinces. Pailin longan trees yield an average of seven-to-30 tonnes per hectare, depending on levels of crop maintenance.
Previously, Cambodian longan was exported to China only through Thai companies due to phytosanitary issues preventing Cambodia from exporting longan directly to the country.