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Low production, campaigns burn tobacco exports

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The Kingdom shipped nearly 4,300 tonnes of tobacco abroad in January-November, down by 24.42 per cent year-on-year. POST STAFF

Low production, campaigns burn tobacco exports

Cambodia exported 4,294.05 tonnes of tobacco in the first 11 months of 2021, dipping by 24.42 per cent year-on-year, of which 98.108 per cent was exported to Vietnam, according to Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data.

Vietnam was the main buyer, with 4,212.80 tonnes, followed by Belgium (59.42 tonnes), Hungary (19.80 tonnes), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1.90 tonnes), China (0.10 tonnes), Indonesia (0.02 tonnes), Singapore (0.01 tonnes) and Germany (0.001 tonnes).

In 2016, Cambodia and Vietnam agreed on preferential duties for agriculture products crossing their shared border.

The Kingdom is allowed to export 3,000 tonnes of dried tobacco to Vietnam duty-free per annum starting in 2016 under the agreement, which has been renewed every year since.

Kampong Cham provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director Sim Thavirak told The Post on December 7 that lower market prices have led to a slight decline in tobacco cultivation in the province this year, compared to 2020, with the crop now being grown on a total 3,400ha.

He noted that tobacco cultivation has not shown any positive results in the past few years, and that many farmers and investors are turning to crops such as mangoes, bananas or cassava that stand out for their export potential.

The tobacco landscape has been dominated by “low yields, weak markets and low prices” in recent memory, he added.

“If market prices are high, cultivation activity will accelerate.”

However, Thavirak suggests that an uptrend in production is not very likely, particularly as anti-tobacco campaigns aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of tobacco become more widespread.

He noted that the crop is mainly grown along the Mekong River – in the provinces of Kampong Cham, Tbong Khmum, Kratie and parts of Kandal – during the low-water season, and that the harvest usually takes place from early March to late April.

Tbong Khmum provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director Heng Piseth said tobacco cultivation in the province had also not increased for some time.

A substantial share of the crop is bought by traders and sold to Vietnam, he said, adding that a lot of land under tobacco cultivation in the province has also been shifted to other crops.

“As yields fall, so do exports. And on the other hand, the purchasing prices that traders pay is not all that high,” he added.

This year, tobacco plantations in Tbong Khmum cover a total of 680ha and are yielding an average of 1.70 tonnes per hectare, Piseth had told The Post in March.

Last year, the area under tobacco cultivation was 5,175ha, of which 4,875ha was harvested, producing 6,132 tonnes, representing a one per cent drop from 2019, ministry statistics show.

In 2020, the Kingdom shipped out a total of 5,820.82 tonnes of leaves, down by 14.020 per cent from 6,769.97 tonnes in 2019, according to figures provided by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon.

Last year’s exports were worth $17,462,460, falling 28.34995 per cent from the $24,371,874.72 clocked in 2019. The average value per kilogramme was $3.00 last year, down by 16.667 per cent from $3.60 in 2019.

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