Local agricultural conglomerate Mong Reththy, owner of Mong Reththy Group, advised Cambodian mango growers to consider grafting mature Keo Romiet trees onto rootstocks of other varieties, to better meet domestic demand and boost exports.

In a nearly 10-minute-long video that Reththy produced and uploaded to his Facebook page on November 2, he suggested using the Khiew Sawoey and Namdokmai cultivars as rootstocks and said Keo Romiet mangoes grown in the Covid-19 era could only be exported if dried.

He said he had grafted Keo Romiet trees onto about 5,000 Namdokmai rootstocks, adding that the resulting fruits do not taste much like Keo Romiet mangoes – the most common variety grown in the Kingdom.

However, he cautioned that grafting is not easy, and requires the proper techniques.

“We have to spray disinfectants so our new buds don’t get eaten, and we need to continuously apply fertiliser and provide intense care … it may take 10-12 months for some of the flowers to bloom, and if they don’t, [the rootstock] may be damaged and won’t bear fruit,” Reththy said.

The Post could not reach Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director-general for Agriculture Ngin Chhay for comment on November 3.

Um Savoeun, president of the Kampong Speu province-based Kirirom Keo Romiet Mango Agricultural Community (KKRMAC), told The Post on November 3 that KKRMAC had tried and failed to graft Keo Romiet trees onto Khiew Sawoey rootstocks.

He said the saplings never bore fruit, although he admitted that he was not privy to the techniques used by Reththy.

The community relies solely on Keo Romiet mangoes, but struggles to export the fruit or even supply domestic demand, he said, citing Covid-19 and market oversaturation.

“Growing mangoes without doing business abroad is not possible, and even if we were to supply our district, no one would buy them to eat … everyone has planted them, so now they are strewn all over the fields. They cannot be sold anywhere,” he said.

Although the Kingdom struck an agreement with Beijing for direct shipments of mangoes to China, exports have seemingly stopped after just one or two major consignments, Savoeun said, noting that Cambodia also ships the fruit to Thailand and Vietnam, albeit through informal channels without the advantages of a similar deal.

However, he said KKRMAC members would look into Reththy’s methods, and research into and experiment with mango grafting so that the community is better able to supply domestic and international markets.

The ministry’s General Directorate of Agriculture said in its 2020 annual results report that the total area devoted to mango cultivation had reached 131,890ha, of which 93,099ha were harvested to yield 1,382,414 tonnes, or an average of 14,849 tonnes per hectare.

Cambodian exported 957,680 tonnes of fresh mangoes last year, of which consignments totalling 107,680 tonnes (11.244 per cent) had accompanying phytosanitary certificates.