To boost the domestic processing capacity and achieve Cambodia’s 2027 goal of becoming a leading nation in not just the cultivation of cashews but their processing and export, it is estimated that at least 50 medium-sized processing facilities will be required, according to insiders. At present there are three.

Uon Silot, president of the Cashew nut Association of Cambodia (CAC), shares that more than 90 per cent of the Kingdom’s raw cashews are currently exported to neighbouring countries for further processing. 

One of the existing facilities, “Cashew Village”, is tucked away in the picturesque Banteay Srei district, approximately 25km northeast of Siem Reap town and province.

Founded by Phal Phearom in 2022, this community-driven cashew processing operation has transformed from a small local endeavour to a thriving business which is ready to tap into global export markets.

The journey began with a collaborative effort between Phearom and cashew farmers from Banteay Srei and adjacent Phnom Kulen district. 

Together, they began processing cashew nuts, providing meaningful employment opportunities for six individuals, the majority of them women.

“We buy high-quality nuts from farmers and process them immediately,” said Phearom, who initially worked as a tour guide in the Angkor area after graduating.

“We want good products that will reach consumers, rather than seeing our farmers sell raw nuts to foreign companies which process them and then import the finished products back to us,” he adds.

Community spirit

What sets Cashew Village apart is its commitment to remaining firmly rooted within local communities, resisting the common practice of selling raw materials to Vietnamese traders. 

Phearom, who originally hails from Battambang province, strongly believes that by processing cashews locally, Cambodia retains the value of its crop and ensures that high-quality products reach consumers promptly.

The process at Cashew Village encompasses various stages, from drying and steaming to peeling and roasting. 

Phearom places paramount importance on quality and efficiency.

“I want to assist cashew farmers by establishing a processing factory in their community,” he says.

Phearom explains that he purchases cashew nuts at a price higher than the market, offering $50 more per tonne of nuts.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of Cashew Village’s evolution is its dedicated focus on community development. 

Beyond procuring cashews, the initiative provides extensive training on cashew cultivation, maintenance, pruning and the use of fertilisers, empowering local farmers with the knowledge and skills necessary to enhance their agricultural practices.

The products from Cashew Village have garnered a devoted customer base, both locally and internationally. 

International appeal

“We have showcased our products at exhibitions in South Korea and the US. Customers in both countries show keen interest in cashews roasted in red skin,” Phearom tells The Post.

The Cashew Village in picturesque Banteay Srei district, Siem Reap province. Photo supplied

These efforts not only bolster the local community’s income but also introduce Cambodian products to a global audience, thereby strengthening international relations.

Challenges persist, primarily in the form of Vietnamese products, which flood the Cambodian market with cheaper, lower-quality cashew nuts. 

Cashew Village has received support from various organisations, including the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Cambodia and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which have played instrumental roles in providing assistance, knowledge and resources for its establishment and growth.

“In the past, we only produced two to three tonnes of raw nuts a day. Now we can handle between 15 and 20 tonnes,” says Phearom. 

He mentioned that in one season, he purchases between 50 and 100 tonnes of cashew nuts from hundreds of growers. 

One of the highlights of Cashew Village is the M23 variety of cashew nuts, known for their larger size and superior taste compared to regular cashews. 

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries confirmed that the M23 variety holds the potential for larger harvests and better resilience to weather conditions, boasting an average yield of two tonnes per hectare.

Cashew processing operations, like Cashew Village, not only uplift the livelihoods of local residents but also shine a spotlight on Banteay Srei and Phnom Kulen districts as prime areas for cashew planting and processing. 

With the market expanding, Cashew Village plans to purchase even more cashew nuts from the community in the coming year.

A grower’s prespective

Hoeur Nith, 45, a cashew farmer in Banteay Srei district with a 50ha contract area, claims that the area produces nuts of particularly high quality.

He initially planted 25ha seven years ago, entering into contracts with landowners to cultivate and harvest cashew nuts for four years before returning the crop to them.

After the initial four-year period, he continued to lease the land, progressively expanding by entering into similar contracts with other landowners.

“I planted both cashews and cassava. Last year, I harvested about 90 tonnes of cashew nuts. This year, due to favourable conditions, the yield may surpass 90 tonnes,” he tells The Post.

In the heart of his lush cashew nut plantation, with the grace of seasoned conductors, Nith and his two staffs diligently monitor the growth and vitality of their cashew trees, ensuring each one thrives under their watchful eyes. 

From the moment they plant the seeds to the final harvest, their hands-on approach infuses every stage of cultivation with dedication and expertise.

As the season ripens, Nith and his team take centre stage, orchestrating the grand finale. During the beginning of harvest season from February, cashew nuts sell for 6,000 riel [$1.50] per kilogramme, with prices dropping to 4,000 riel at the height of the harvest, he says.

For the past two years, some of his nuts have been sold to Cashew Village, while the remainder went to Vietnamese brokers.

As Cambodia continues to be a major cashew producer, it is crucial to explore opportunities for domestic processing and export. 

Agriculture ministry spokesman Im Rachna highlighted the ministry’s commitment to fostering production in line with the “National Cashew Policy 2022-27”. The policy, formulated by the commerce ministry, aims to establish Cambodia as the “Cashew Emperor”.

According to the CAC, Cambodia exported over 600,000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts to Vietnam in the first 10 months of 2023, less than five per cent of them processed.