Cambodia witnessed a surge in the export of raw cashew nuts in the first six months of 2024. Total exports were valued at nearly $1 billion, already surpassing the total for the entirety of 2023.

The figure accounted for approximately one-third of the value of Cambodia's total agricultural exports, ranking cashew nuts as the highest earner of the Kingdom’s agricultural products. 

Khim Finan, spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, noted that the majority of cashew exports were in raw form. 

“One of the ministry’s top priorities is improving Cambodia’s processing facilities to ensure that we can add value before they are exported,” he told The Post.

Achieving this objective necessitates substantial investment in processing infrastructure, transportation networks and other essential facilities. 

Finan expressed optimism about the future expansion of these efforts to bolster the local economy and increase the value retention of cashew nuts within the Kingdom.

Currently, 94 per cent of Cambodia's agricultural exports are directed to three main markets: Vietnam, Thailand and China. 

“Vietnam imports cashew nuts, cassava and fresh mangoes, while Thailand receives cassava, fresh mangoes and pepper. China takes bran, bananas, rice, cassava and mangoes,” said Finan. 

Agriculture ministry undersecretary of state Khim Finam (left) and Ratanakkiri provincial governor Nhem Sam Oeun (right) examine locally produced cashew nuts during a May event. Agriculture ministry

The first half of 2024 saw a 57 per cent increase in the volume of agricultural exports from Cambodia, when compared to the same period in 2023. 

This growth was largely driven by rising exports of cassava, cashew nuts and rice. There has also been a notable uptick in the export of other agricultural products such as fresh mangoes, sweet mangoes, turmeric, corn, fresh lentils and peppers.

Despite being among the top 10 global producers of cashew nuts, Cambodia currently processes only 10 per cent of its crop, according to USAID. 

The remaining 90 per cent is exported raw, primarily to Vietnam, where the nuts are processed and then sold to export markets at higher prices.

In 2023, Cambodia generated approximately $837 million from the export of 656,000 tonnes of cashews, according to the Cashew Nut Association of Cambodia. 

In 2022, Cambodia exported approximately 670,000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts, valued at $1.077 billion, with the main markets being Vietnam, Japan and China. 

A cashew plantation, part of the Stung Trang Sen Chey community in Kampong Cham province, last February. Agriculture ministry

This marked a decrease from the previous year's 1.1 million tonnes, due to extreme weather conditions which affected production.

The government is keen to enhance local processing capabilities to add value to their exports. 

The National Policy on Cashew Nuts for 2022-2027, launched by the Ministry of Commerce, aims to ensure that at least 25 per cent of the Kingdom’s cashew nut output is processed domestically by 2027. 

Significant investments are being made to support this transition – including collaborations with Japanese companies like Mirarth Holdings Inc. and Top Planning Japan Co, Ltd – to increase the processing capacity of the Kingdom.

Despite challenges such as competition from Vietnamese products and climate change, Cambodia's cashew nut industry shows promise, especially with ongoing efforts to improve quality and efficiency in processing and exporting.