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Longans longing for storage

A vendor at Kandal Market adjusts her display of longans yesterday in Phnom Penh
A vendor at Kandal Market adjusts her display of longans yesterday in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Longans longing for storage

The amount of land used to grow longans has doubled in the past two years, but a lack of supply-chain infrastructure is hampering farmers’ ability to get top dollar for their product, the fruit’s body says.

Sreng Sreang, deputy director of the Pailin Longan Farmers’ Community (PLFC), said the fruit growers are in desperate need of storage facilities to hold large amounts of their stock in order to avoid being left with an oversupply at the end of the harvest season between January and March, which in turn brings prices down.

“We want farmers to be able to sell their harvested longans at any time without being concerned about price dumping or slumping demand,” Sreang said.

“As production increases with more cultivation, we want the price to remain stable for farmers,” he added.

The longan is a sweet and soft translucent tropical fruit with a brown peel and is about the size of a quail egg. It is a popular treat among Cambodians and is commonly used as an offering at religious ceremonies.

According to Sreang, storage and processing facilities, which cost up to $400,000 each to build, would allow farmers to stagger sales and better capitalise during peak sales times such as the Chinese and Khmer new year periods, when the fruit can demand up to 6,000 riel ($1.50) per kilogram.

During the rest of the year, longans sell for about 4,000 riel per kilogram.

More than 60 per cent of the 1,125 tonnes of longans harvested each year in Pailin province is sold to Chinese exporters.

“We want to find a way to control the remaining [domestic] supply,” Sreang said, referring to the need for improved infrastructure in the province.

Chhil Chhen, deputy director of Pailin’s provincial department of agriculture, said the government did not have the funds to pay for a storage or processing facility and that the PLFC should look to the private sector.

“Besides helping them seek funds from private donors, I also encourage them to look for business partners of their own to invest in the processing plant,” Chhen said.

With longan prices increasing from about 2,500 riel per kilo in 2010 to 4,000 riel per kilo today, Chhen said the fruit is fast becoming a valuable commodity for Pailin province and has contributed to improved living standards.

Pailin longan is on the government’s waiting list with 21 other Cambodia-specific products to receive the World Trade Organization’s exclusive geographical indicator, or GI, status.

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