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Making palm sugar harvest attractive again

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A worker moves from one tree to another collect palm sugar juice. AFP

Making palm sugar harvest attractive again

Kampong Speu Palm Sugar, which has a geographical indication (GI) status, is seeing lower production due to a labour shortage.

Kampong Speu Palm Sugar Promotion Association (KSPSPA) president, Sam Saroeun, said on Tuesday that production fell from 300 tonnes last year to 250 tonnes this year.

While the association is trying to emphasise the benefits of palm sugar production, young people mostly seek employment outside the agricultural sector, Saroeun said.

“We need enough workers to collect the juice needed for the sugar production. But the younger generation prefers to work in the garment industry rather than climb trees."

“A farmer can earn $4,000 per year,” he said. But on an annual basis, a garment worker could earn more than twice as much.

“As we also want to promote the Khmer production of palm sugar, we visit villages and talk about our profit margins to encourage them to come back [to agriculture] and increase our production,” he said.

In 2010, Kampong Speu palm sugar was awarded the geographical indication (GI) status. The label guarantees the origin of the product and assures buyers that the sugar is produced according to tightly controlled quality specifications.

The main production base is in Kampong Speu Province’s Oudong district. Farmers can produce around 15-20kg a day which is sold at 5,000 riel a kilogramme, according to Saroeun.

KSPSPA has 200 members and exports to 16 countries, including Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and France which are the main importers. It also supplies the domestic market.

Confirel production director Hym Piseth said Cambodian palm sugar turns out to be popular in the international market, and hence orders keep increasing.

“If we manage to maintain the quality of palm sugar, we can pay the workers more and attract them to go back to work in the village,” he said.

In 2016, farmers harvested 1.2 million palm trees, collecting 70-100kg of sugar each over six months.

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