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Ministry has big plans for Cambodia’s cashews

A worker picks cashew nuts in Kampong Cham province. Sovan Philong
A worker picks cashew nuts in Kampong Cham province. Sovan Philong

Ministry has big plans for Cambodia’s cashews

Cambodia and Vietnam signed an agreement earlier this month to greatly expand Cambodia’s cashew exports by 2028, but the proposed export level would require several hundred thousand hectares of additional land and there is no concrete plan yet to meet the target.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture and the Vietnamese Cashew Association (Vinacas) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to increase Cambodia’s cashew exports to 1 million tonnes by 2028, up from the about 73,000 tonnes exported last year. Vinacas also gave the ministry a $66,000 grant to support the same target in December.

The two sides inked the final MoU earlier this month, but Agriculture Ministry officials have since told The Post that while they are optimistic they can increase production more than tenfold in 10 years, they have not yet formulated a plan to reach that level of production.

“We haven’t agreed on any price or any purchases yet, but it is better than nothing,” said Kong Pheach, director of Ministry of Agriculture’s agricultural industry department. “If we can get high quality trees in the good potential farm, I believe we will reach 1 million tonnes of exports before 10 years.”

Data from the Agriculture Ministry shows that cashew yields generally equal 1 tonne of raw cashews per hectare of cultivated land. If those current yield levels are maintained, the Kingdom would need about 1 million hectares of land – roughly the size of Ratanakiri province – to be dedicated to cashew trees in order to meet the terms of the MoU.

However, yield levels in Vietnam can exceed 2 tonnes per hectare, and part of the MoU with Vinacas included agreements to share both cashew trees and technical expertise to boost Cambodia’s production, potentially reducing the amount of land required.

Vietnamese media reports said Vinacas was looking to support cashew production on 500,000 hectares in Cambodia – roughly the size of Kampot province. That would put cashews on par with rubber, which covered more than 430,000 hectares of land and generated about $300 million in revenue last year.

Chhiv Ngy, director of the Cashew Nut Association of Kampong Thom and Santuk Cashew Cooperative, said he was optimistic that Cambodia could reach annual production target of 1 million tonnes.

“We are now no longer concerned about the market,” Ngy said, pointing to delegations from China, Korea, Japan and Malaysia who have all asked for additional cashew nut supply. The vast majority of Cambodia’s raw cashews are shipped to Vietnam, where they are processed and then shipped around the globe.

The figure of 1 million tonnes was agreed upon because that was Vinacas’s predicted demand, according to Pheach, who added that ministry officials would contact individual farmers as well as holders of economic land concessions that currently have unused land to try to convince them to grow more cashews in order to meet the export targets.

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