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Tobacco exports trail off in 2020

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A farmer checks on a crop of tobacco plants at a farm in Tbong Khmum province in 2014. Post Staff

Tobacco exports trail off in 2020

Cambodia exported more than 5.8 thousand tonnes of dried tobacco leaves worth more than $17 million to nine countries last year, marking a 14 per cent and 28 per cent decline in volume and value, respectively, over 2019.

The Kingdom shipped out a total of 5,820.82 tonnes of leaves in 2020, down by 14.02 per cent from 6,769.97 tonnes in 2019, according to figures provided by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon.

Last year’s exports were valued at $17,462,460 million, falling 28.34 per cent from the $24,371,874.72 million clocked in 2019.

Buyers of Cambodian dried tobacco leaves were listed as Vietnam, Indonesia, Hungary, the United Arab Emirates, Belgium, South Africa, Greece, Singapore and Germany.

In 2016, Cambodia and Vietnam agreed on preferential duties for agriculture products crossing their shared border.

The Kingdom was allowed to export 3,000 tonnes of dried tobacco to Vietnam duty-free each year starting in 2016 under the agreement, which was renewed thrice for 2017-2019.

Tbong Khmum province has the largest tobacco growing area, followed by Kampong Cham and Kratie provinces, with Kandal province far behind. The harvest usually takes place from early March to late April.

Tbong Khmum provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director Heng Piseth told The Post that a notable portion of the province’s tobacco is sold to Vietnam, admitting that he did not know what the country’s exact quota was.

He said Chinese traders were buying up more of the leaves from the province’s farmers, but said he did not know where the product ended up.

This year, tobacco plantations in Tbong Khmum cover a total of 680ha and are yielding an average of 1.70 tonnes per hectare, Piseth said. As of March 16, the harvest in the province is more than 68 per cent.

Matt Sokkrey, a farmer in the province with 2.5ha of tobacco plants, said she expects to collect five to six tonnes for this year’s harvest.

She said the average wholesale price for high-quality tobacco now ranges from 8,500-10,000 riel ($2.10-2.47) per kilogramme, leaving much room to haggle with local traders.

“I’d like to ask traders to come and buy at a slightly more reasonable price. Farmers spend a lot of money on workers. We won’t break even if the rates are too low,” Sokkrey said.

Last year, the area under tobacco cultivation was 5,175ha, of which 4,875ha was harvested, producing 6,132 tonnes, representing a one per cent drop from 2019, ministry statistics show.

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