Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the purchase of longan harvested in Battambang province from small farms that grow them independently.
But large-scale producers of longans – an edible fruit similar to lychee, also of the soapberry family – need to find a market for them by themselves.
Primary purchasing data shows that more than 100 tonnes of longans were purchased by the government in just two days.
Hun Sen recently ordered Hing Bun Heang, his cabinet’s deputy chief, to organise the purchase of longans from farmers who could not find a market for them due to pandemic-related border restrictions, saying the government would distribute the fruits for free to frontline workers including medical workers and military personnel, and patients or people in the quarantine centres.
Hun Sen said on August 18 that this would save longan farmers from financial ruin due to matters beyond their control.
He said that in the future a better solution would be for the agriculture and commerce ministries to work with the Battambang and Pailin provincial governors to locate alternative markets for the farmers to export to.
In addition, Hun Sen also stressed that he did not use funds from the national budget to buy the longans.
“[Governors], please remember that I am only referring to poor farmers who grow longans directly. For the plantations owned by government officials or military officers or tycoons or corporations – they have to find a market on their own.
“I will mortgage my house for money to give to farmers who are struggling, but I am not able to help landowners with big longan plantations, please understand,” he explained.
Battambang provincial governor Nguon Rattanak told The Post on August 19 that in two days from August 18 to 19, his team had collected more than 100 tonnes of longans from farmers.
He said the massive amount of fruit will immediately be distributed to people in quarantine centres and to members of the armed forces.
He stated that the purchasing teams went and bought the longans directly from the farmers’ fields to ensure that all the longans purchased would be for the benefit of smaller-scale farmers who were facing real difficulties.
“We decided not to purchase them all in one location because we were afraid we might end up buying them from big plantation owners or commodities traders. Instead we went directly to the small plantations. We brought trucks to transport the fruit and men to help them with harvesting. We don’t want them to spend anything on transportation, either. We will continue visiting farmers district by district and the local authorities there will help us find the independent farmers who couldn’t sell their fruits,” he said.
According to Rattanak, the purchase of longans can vary depending on negotiations between the buyer and seller, but generally the price falls between 1,800 riel and 2,500 riel per kg depending on the details.
“The price is in accordance with the condition of the longans and the packaging. If it is properly packaged, it’s more expensive. But if it’s not yet packaged, the price is lower. Like today, we brought trucks to their farms and helped them with the harvesting, so the price was 1,800 riel per kg,” he said.
Yim Bunthoeun, the owner of a longan farm in Battambang province’s Kamrieng district said he sold two tonnes of longans to the provincial authorities. He told The Post on August 19 that Hun Sen’s plan was a great relief to longan farmers and it would go a long way towards solving the challenges they’ve faced this year due to Covid-19 issues and the resulting condition of the economy.
He requested that the government start looking right away for another market to sell future longan harvests in case these border restrictions persist. He suggested they look into exporting them to China.
“This plan can help us for a while, but we know they can’t do this forever. I just want our leaders to help boost exports, and if we could export to China then farmers could get good prices,” he said.
Bun Heang of Hun Sen’s cabinet said on August 19 during a visit to a longan farm in Battambang province that the collection of longans was not being done for commercial purposes.
He said that the longans purchased would be distributed to frontline workers and border forces as well as migrant workers in quarantine centres and each person would get 2 kg of fruit.
“This is just a short-term solution. Do not confuse this with a purchase for export elsewhere. These longans are not for sale. They have been bought and collected for the provincial board of governors to hand over to some district governors and police chiefs who must then distribute them freely. This is not a free market to export for profits, we are both purchasing the fruit and giving it away as humanitarian donations,” he said.