The Kampong Speu palm sugar market has expanded its scope thanks to the increasing demand from domestic and international markets, though a large number of palm tree climbers are reaching old age, leading to a lower production capacity that cannot meet market demands.
Vy Veasna of the Kampong Speu Palm Sugar Promotion Association (KSPA) expressed concerns over the decreasing number of members and the impact on production caused by the younger generation’s disinterest in pursuing a career climbing palm trees.
“For the current market demand, it is not a challenge for the KSPA, but the real challenge is the irregular number of farmers,” he said.
Veasna said that last year the market demand for powdered palm sugar was up to 150 tonnes, but the community could supply only 70 tonnes. This year, more than 100 tonnes are needed, but so far the community has only collected 30 tonnes of sugar with only three months left for production.
“Most of palm tree climbers are between 30 to 70-years-old or even older than that. They are getting older, while young people who are healthy and strong are going to work in construction or factories because of the palm sugar area is close to the development area, which has many factories,” he said.
Aside from labour issues, Veasna also mentioned another challenge, which is the loss of palm trees through development of land plots.
He said it was not a major issue yet as the association always educates and instructs farmers to prevent the cutting down of palm trees even if they are selling their land and some farmers have planted more palm trees.
Currently, the association, which was established in 2008, has about 165 families and produces four types of palm sugar including sugar paste, sugar cubes, powdered sugar and sugar syrup. The association supplies 11 partners, including nine companies and two traders.
Among the four types of palm sugar, sugar paste is the main one used in domestic supply and sugar powder is the primary export to markets abroad. The prices on all types of palm sugar have been increasing over time.
“Last year some farmers could sell it from 5,000 to 5,500 riel per kg, and this year they can sell it for 6,000 to 6,500 riel and up to 7,000 riel per kg in some areas,” he said. “The price of powdered sugar has increased from 6,800 riel to 7,200 riel and the organic sugar is up to 7,300 riel.”