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Rains, volatile prices eat into Jan-Oct fresh-mango exports

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The female half of a mango-vending motorcycle duo laughs after noticing the camera, on Hun Sen Boulevard in the capital’s Meanchey district on May 3. Heng Chivoan

Rains, volatile prices eat into Jan-Oct fresh-mango exports

The Kingdom exported 138,377.55 tonnes of fresh mangoes in January-October 2022, down by 31.54 per cent year-on-year from 202.1 kilotonnes, with Vietnam buying the lion’s share of 56.78 per cent at 78,566.23 tonnes, according to a new Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries report.

The remaining batches of Cambodian-grown mangoes that were shipped abroad over the 10-month period went to Thailand (32,181.12 tonnes), mainland China (27,467.88 tonnes), South Korea (160.08 tonnes) and Hong Kong (2.24 tonnes), the report showed.

Mango growers in the Kingdom typically get two crops each year from their trees, over a dry season harvest that usually takes place in March-May, and a smaller rainy season harvest in October-November.

Hun Lak, CEO of Rich Farm Asia Ltd, a mango grower and exporter, chalked up the on-year drop in fresh mango exports to: heavier-than-expected rains; volatile market prices for the fruit; rising costs for fertilisers, pesticides and other agricultural inputs; and greater barriers to Chinese market access stemming from Covid-19 controls.

Illustrating the extreme volatility of prices for fresh mangoes allocated for export, Lak explained that, while the average per-kilogramme rate had been just 500 riel ($0.12) at the beginning of November 2021, it rocketed to 2,200-2,500 riel between October and mid-November as the rainy season harvest gained traction, but has since moderated to 1,200-1,500 riel, amid disappointing yields.

“As Cambodian mango yields fall this year amid unstable prices, and with sales to China in jeopardy, this has led to a significant drop in exports,” he said.

To increase sustainability in fresh-mango production and export, Lak underscored the importance of formulating a joint policy, with the involvement of farmers, processors, transporters, exporters, investors, officials and all other stakeholders.

Lak also brought up a measure introduced by the government last year to alleviate the plight of the agriculture sector: providing subsidised electricity every day from 9pm to 7am for crop cultivation, animal husbandry, aquaculture and other allied activities, at 480 riel per kilowatt-hour.

The industry veteran emphasised that beneficiaries of the subsidised electricity scheme would enjoy lower production costs, which he said would help Cambodia better compete in the international marketplace.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng similarly blamed China’s Covid-linked restrictions on goods traffic as one of the main reasons for the decline in fresh mango exports, commenting that the local community tends to have high expectations for the Chinese market.

But should China reopen, Cambodian goods will only consolidate their presence on international markets, supported by bilateral free trade agreements with China and South Korea – the latter of which enters effect next month – and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), he opined.

“Once the global economy stabilises, and especially when China reopens, I believe fresh mango exports will definitely increase,” Heng said.

According to the ministry’s report, Cambodia also exported 15,816.69 tonnes of dried mango over the January-October period, up 1.06 per cent year-on-year from 15.65 kilotonnes.

Mainland China was the top buyer, with an 87.58 per cent share at 13,851.95 tonnes, followed by Thailand (968.21 tonnes), the Philippines (571.77 tonnes), Vietnam (200 tonnes), Japan (111.54 tonnes), Russia (71.05 tonnes), Italy (26.46 tonnes), the UK (9.78 tonnes), South Korea (5.89 tonnes), the US (0.03 tonnes) and Australia (0.01 tonnes).

Last year, Cambodia exported 242,483.76 tonnes of fresh mangoes – up 148.38 per cent from 97.6 kilotonnes in 2020 – to Vietnam (199,077.38 tonnes), Thailand (38,419.28 tonnes), mainland China (4,771 tonnes), South Korea (149.11 tonnes), Hong Kong (50.78 tonnes), Singapore (16.20 tonnes) and Kuwait (0.01 tonnes).

Dried mango exports in 2021 clocked in at 17,879.82 tonnes – up 179.30 per cent from 6,402 tonnes in 2020 – which were sold to mainland China (14,246.20 tonnes), Thailand (1,501.13 tonnes), the Philippines (975.08 tonnes), Vietnam (559.30 tonnes), Japan (523.70 tonnes), Russia (23 tonnes), the UK (21.14 tonnes), South Korea (18.70 tonnes), the US (8.56 tonnes), Taiwan (three tonnes) and Kazakhstan (0.05 tonnes).

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