A Stung Treng cashew nut roaster is embracing solar and teaching farmers the latest growing techniques, as it sets its sights on becoming a global brand.

“With over 200,000ha of cashew plantations, the Kingdom should be a major player in the global cashew industry,” says Soeun Sothnita, business development manager of her family’s operation, Handcrafted Cashew Nuts Stung Treng (HCST).

The processing plant, which has been running for one year, stands on 4ha in Sre Krasaing commune of Stung Treng’s Siem Bok district. They purchase nuts from local farmers, and turn them into several flavours of snack. Currently, the plant produces 15 tonnes of finished products each month.

Sothnita, aged just 20, is in her third year of university studying business and finance. She helped to establish the business, and is insistent that it help to address some of the challenges that are facing the Kingdom’s farmers.

“My parents and I want to help farmers harvest high-quality, lasting yields and we think that following best agricultural practices is the way to do so. If we can achieve goal, our cashew nuts will attract consumers from many more markets,” she said.

She wants all of her products to meet international standards and be sold in countries across the world. She has now displayed her products at several major exhibitions abroad.

“Within a period of just 12 months, we have showcased our products at international trade fairs in Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Germany,” she said.

However, the business has encountered some obstacles. As a new manufacturer, she accepts that they will have to earn the trust of consumers. In addition, their prices are unable to compete with existing producers, as their production costs are high.

This has been partially overcome with a change to solar power. In doing so, she is not only saving her family’s business money, but helping to protect the environment.

The Ministry of Environment recently released the “Cambodia Land Use Report 2022”, which focuses on the 13 most common types of crop grown by farmers. Cashews were fourth on the list, consuming 230,202ha of cultivated land in Cambodia.

Many cashew farmers have voiced their concerns about the lack of markets for their crops, and the fact that wholesale prices are low.

“There are several factors at play here,” said Sothnita.

“Many farmers are not familiar with the methods required to guarantee a high-quality crop, which means a reduction in prices. There are not yet enough factories or processing plants to consume the entire crop in the country, which is compounded by the majority of farmer’s harvesting their nuts during the same part of the year,” she added.

In addition to buying their nuts, HCST also trains farmers in the latest techniques of cashew growing. This will lead to a rise in quality of the produce, and subsequent higher prices when the time comes to harvest them.

Sothnita intends to expand the business so that it can sign exclusive supply contracts with the farmers of the province. She also has plans to develop the area’s plantations into natural beauty spots that will promote agritourism in the future.