Cambodia exported 4,789.68 tonnes of dry tobacco leaves from January to July, rising by 100 per cent over the corresponding period last year, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported.

Vietnam was the top destination market, accounting for 4,687.7 tonnes or a 97.87 per cent share, followed by Taiwan (47.25 tonnes), Hungary (39.60 tonnes), the Philippines (15.11 tonnes) and South Africa (0.02 tonnes).

Tobacco is mostly grown in Tbong Khmum, Kampong Cham and Kratie provinces, and in fewer amounts in Kandal. Seedlings are typically planted in September-October and the plants are harvested in March-May the following year.

Heng Nath, a tobacco farmer in Tbong Khmum’s Kroch Chhmar district, told The Post on August 24 that the harvest was completed in May with yields similar to last year, and that almost the entire crop had been bought by traders, whom he noted hail from all parts of the country or from Vietnam.

“Although tobacco cultivation and areas in my region have not increased in recent years, there aren’t any market issues – at harvest time, the traders come and buy,” he said, noting that tobacco is generally grown along the Mekong River and rotated with other crops such as corn and mung beans.

According to Nath, growers’ selling price of dry tobacco leaves is overall similar to last year, with the more pungent tasting “thnam Khmer” – also called “thnam bay” – going for 9,000-10,000 riel ($2.25-2.50) per kilogramme and “thnam katab” with a less overpowering taste and aroma priced at 3,000-4,000 riel. The former is most likely Nicotiana rustica known as “strong tobacco”, and the latter the more common Nicotiana tabacum.

In 2016, Cambodia and Vietnam signed a deal granting preferential tariff treatment for agricultural products crossing their shared border. The Kingdom is allowed to export 3,000 tonnes of dried tobacco to Vietnam duty-free for one year under the agreement, which has been renewed each subsequent calendar year.

Tbong Khmum provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director Heng Piseth told The Post that tobacco cultivation is done mainly by smallholder farmers along the Mekong and that areas and yields in the province only increased slightly year-on-year after several years of stagnation, due to a lack of domestic demand.

“Farmers always cultivate in line with market demand, so tobacco production has not increased significantly,” he said, confirming Nath’s comment that prices of dry tobacco leaves were about on par with last year.

Piseth also shared that there is one tobacco cigarette factory in the province, which sources dry leaves locally.

The department reported that in 2021, the area in Tbong Khmum under tobacco cultivation was 680ha, with an average yield of 1.70 tonnes per hectare.

Although figures for the value of the tobacco exports for January-July 2022 were not immediately available, the agriculture ministry reported that non-rice agricultural exports during the period were to the tune of $1.75508 billion.

Last year, Cambodia exported 4,590.85 tonnes of dry tobacco leaves – down by 21.13 per cent over 2020 – to Vietnam (4,489.80 tonnes), Belgium (59.42 tonnes), Hungary (39.60 tonnes), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1.90 tonnes), mainland China (0.10 tonnes), Indonesia (0.02 tonnes), Singapore (0.01 tonnes) and Germany (0.001 tonnes), according to the ministry.