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New plant a benefit for cassava crop

New plant a benefit for cassava crop

An ethanol plant planned for Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey province would push local production of the crop, as well as decreased reliance on foreign markets, officials and cassava farmers said yesterday.

Construction on the joint venture between a Chinese firm and Cambodia’s National Company for Development will break ground in April 2012 and should be completed by the end of the year, Banteay Meanchey provincial governor Ung Oeun said. He declined to name the Chinese partner.

The processing plant, to be built in the province’s Thmarpouk district, will need up to 2 million tonnes of dry cassava a year, Ung Oeun said.

That regular demand should help to stabilise the Kingdom’s cassava prices – which have been irregular given Cambodia’s reliance on exports to Vietnam and Thailand  – as well as put funds into much needed infrastructure for the agricultural industry, farmers said. Domestic processing would also decrease the flow of raw cassava to neighbouring countries.

“Every year we are worried about the cassava market because we depend on markets in Vietnam and Thailand … and that makes the price undependable,” said Keo Sopheak, a cassava farmer in Thmarpouk district, Banteay Meanchey province, who added that a new processing plant in the country could create more reliable price fluctuation.

Increased competition in the cassava market could help improve poor road conditions in the Kingdom’s northwest, Sory Khoun, a cassava farmer in Malia district, Banteay Meanchey, said yesterday. A stable domestic market could also reduce farmer reliance on the Thai and Vietnamese markets, he said. Both farmers said an unstable cassava market had led to the harvesting of only a fraction of their crop.

Cambodia’s cassava exports nearly doubled between January and October this year compared to the same period last year, and export revenues for the crop jumped by more than 240 per cent, according to Ministry of Commerce statistics.

The country exported 228,273 tonnes of fresh and dry cassava worth about US$10 million during the first 10 month of the year, up from 116,668 tonnes worth $2.93 million the year before. Cambodia cultivated 190,000 hectares and 3.9 million tonnes of cassava in 2010, according to figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Sorm Yin, president of Malai Trading Company, exported 60,000 tonnes of cassava to Thailand last year but said domestic processing will reduce his reliance on Thai buyers.

Increased cassava planting could reduce the quality of Cambodia’s soil, he added, as the crop requires the heavy use of fertilisers and cannot be planted in the same spot for consecutive years.

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