Farmers are growing more cassava to cash in on high prices in a trend which has led to predictions that this year’s crop will easily exceed last year’s harvest of more than two million tons.
With many farmers switching from growing corn and other crops to cassava, at a time when rice prices are also high, the cost of farm land is rising because of increased demand.
Mom Banhrong, a farmer in Salakrao district, Pailin municipality, said he had doubled the area planted to cassava this year after making a profit of up to $30,000 on the 30 hectares of the crop he grew in 2007.
Banhrong said he sold last year’s crop for 250 riel a kilogram, more than twice the price it was fetching in 2006.
“I’m very happy with the price I received last year; that’s why I am growing 60 hectares this year,” Banhrong said in an interview on May 13.
“If the price stays high I will make a lot of money and be able increase the size of my farm every year,” he said, adding that one of the advantages of cassava was that it was not as time-consuming to grow as corn, sesame and beans.
Chum Savich, a farmer in Kamrieng district, Battambang province whose main crop had been corn, said he was switching to cassava because it offered a better return.
“I follow the market; if a crop brings a good price, I will plant it,” Savich said.
Cheam Chan Saphon, the Agriculture Department’s director in Battambang province, said in a phone interview on May 13 that the rebound in cassava prices was good news for farmers.
Nearly 20,000 hectares of cassava was grown in the province in 2006 but low returns that year, of about 100 riel a kilogram, had resulted in only about 12,000 hectares being planted in 2007, Chan Saphon said.
He said cassava, which is harvested at the end of the year and can tolerate arid conditions and poor soil, was being processed at two factories in Cambodia and another was being planned.
Kith Seng, the director of the Agriculture Ministry’s planning and statistics department, said on May 13 that this year’s cassava crop would exceed by “tons” the 2007 harvest of more than two million tons.
The increased interest in growing cassava has also been welcomed by Chan Tong Yves, the Secretary of State for the Agriculture Ministry.
“Cassava will be one of the best crops in future because of demand for it on the world market,” Yves said.
“The government is building irrigation systems and choosing the best seeds for the farmers to plant,” he said.
Cassava, which is rich in carbohydrates, is widely used in cooking and as animal feed.