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Sugar cane harvesters find their sweet spot

A man maintains crops in a sugarcane field in Kandal province’s Saang district in 2011.
A man maintains crops in a sugarcane field in Kandal province’s Saang district in 2011. Heng Chivoan

Sugar cane harvesters find their sweet spot

The expansion of sugarcane cultivation in Cambodia is driving strong demand for mechanical cane harvesters, with sales expected to spike this year on hotter temperatures and with large-scale projects coming online, representatives of RMA (Cambodia) Co Ltd, the exclusive local distributor of John Deere agricultural vehicles, said yesterday.

“The expected sale size is between 10 and 15 units per year, but I think we will sell about 15 units this year,” said Mike Quin, manager of RMA’s infrastructure division.

He said that the ongoing drought across much of the country had slowed demand for cane harvesters so far this year, but was exactly the time they are needed most.

“Farmers prefer to use machines rather than raw labour since the higher temperatures make it hard [for people] to work,” Quin said.

“So we see that John Deere has good potential for the industry and all the big sugar companies are now running our machines because they can work at least 15 hour per days, which helps to reduce costs a lot.”

He added that the American brand’s line of mechanical cane harvesters – which cost from $350,000 to $400,000 depending on options – boast higher productivity, better fuel efficiency and lower operating costs than other brands on the market.

According to Chan Moniroth, key account manager at RMA, the company has sold a total of 40 John Deere cane harvesters since 2013.

But opportunities for new sales have emerged in northern Cambodia, where a massive sugar mill opened earlier this month that is capable of processing 20,000 tonnes of sugarcane a day.

Rui Feng (Cambodia) International Co Ltd, one of five closely linked Chinese companies cultivating sugarcane on 40,000 hectares in Preah Vihear province, operates on a scale far too large for manual harvesting.

Ing Ting Kong, a representative of the project’s Lan Feng sugar factory, said the company already has 12 John Deere cane harvesters on order.

“Each machine can cover 1,000 hectares and needs only one person to operate, so we can save time and increase productivity,” he explained.

“The company will order more units soon either this year or next.”

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