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Sweet success as Pailin longan proving a big hit with Chinese

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Baskets of Pailin longan on display at an event marking the inaugural export of the fruit to China on October 27. Heng Chivoan

Sweet success as Pailin longan proving a big hit with Chinese

Longan grown in Cambodia’s western province of Pailin has won the hearts of Chinese consumers, according to a locally registered company that buys the fruit for export to China.

Longan – also known by the botanical name Dimocarpus longan – is a tropical evergreen tree species native to Asia that produces white-fleshed edible fruit of the soapberry family, which also includes lychees and rambutan.

The most renowned variety is the Pailin longan, named after the Kingdom’s second-smallest province by area, which borders Chanthaburi and Trat of Thailand.

Sar Chamroeun, a representative of China Jinkwoayuan Import Export (Cambodia) Co Ltd – which began exporting the fruit in October last year – said longans purchased from Pailin’s 47 plantations are superior to those from other provinces in terms of both taste and appearance.

“Chinese consumers have showered them [Pailin longan] with praise,” he said, noting that his company also buys the fruit from neighbouring Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces.

Chamroeun said his company has encouraged farmers and plantation owners to work towards meeting the phytosanitary conditions set by the Chinese General Administration of Customs so that exports can grow even more.

Suos Siyat, president of the Pailin Longan Agricultural Production Cooperative, warned however that farmers are currently facing water shortages, which may affect their yields or the quality of their fruit.

“In addition, a number of farmers have not followed the instructions of the agriculture ministry and are not meeting Cambodia Good Agricultural Practices [CamGAP] standards,” he said.

“We have some concerns. Some new farmers have not registered to learn about the standards, and how to meet them. The water shortages may also affect the quality of the fruit. We are currently cooperating with the provincial agriculture department to formulate a response to these issues,” he added.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, eight exporters and 64 plantations were licensed to handle the longan bound for the Chinese market by October, when it became the third Cambodian fruit to be officially exported to the Chinese market in fresh form, after mangoes and bananas.

Chamroeun of China Jinkwoayuan said his company has exported more than 2,000 tonnes of fresh longans to date.

“The company has not laid out specific purchase targets for this year but will be willing to buy as much quality fruit as farmers can harvest,” he said.

Neang Samrithkomar, Cambodian consul-general in eastern China’s Shanghai city, confirmed to local media on December 21 that an event was held nine days earlier in nearby Hangzhou, Zhejiang – where Alibaba Group is based – marking the official green light for legitimate listings of Pailin longan on the tech powerhouse’s e-marketplaces.

Sales have been reported as steady, with the governments of both nations praising the development.

According to the agriculture ministry, longans are planted on more than 13,608ha of land across Cambodia, with more on the way. Battambang province has some 7,000ha under cultivation, with Pailin and Banteay Meanchey 5,000ha and 2,000ha respectively.

The yield varies depending on crop maintenance, but averages between seven and 30 tonnes per hectare.

The soapberry – whose name derives from “dragon eye”, as used in different varieties of Chinese – is typically harvested from August to end-December each year, with peak season in November, according to the Pailin Longan Association (PLA).

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